Suburban Villages: Conceptualizing Urban Fringes in a Global Context. The Case of Wangzhai


Early settlements, or “Suburban Villages,” are organized along the Wenruitang water network, a millenary old canal system which structured the territory around Wenzhou. The extension of the urban boundaries from the late 1980’s onward included the rural villages along the Wenruitang in a form of diffused urbanism. Those villages became linked to create an Urban Archipelago, defining an indigenous kind of suburbs. At present, the sevillages are threatened by the constant mutating character of this suburb: the agricultural land preservation policy will preserve the diffuse urban form but puts the burden on the already built areas, i.e. the suburban villages, as the only place of redevelopment, and real estate speculation. Ourresearchprojectaimstodefinethismutatingterritoryandfocusparticularlyonthe relation between the Wenruitang water system and the settlements, within this new suburban situation. Our goal is to show the patterns of its architecture and urbanism in order to propose either a preservation and rehabilitation plan. OurfirstcasestudyisthevillageofWangzhaiinWenzhouinZhejiangProvince.Located on one branch of the Wenruitang water network, Wangzhai village is both typical and specific. As part of these Suburban Villages network, it is typical with its relation to the river, its spontaneous urban development, and its modern vernacular architecture heritage. However it is located within the boundaries of the Sino-American Wenzhou-Kean University, and is part of the planned Kean Town. The objective of our research is to examine the condition of the village in order to propose conceptual tools that might be used for design strategies.

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