Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Housing Explorations for Rural-Urban Migrants: For Communities in Guangzhou’s Peri-Urban Areas.

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posted on 2023-11-29, 05:11 authored by Lisa Ou

As China becomes more urbanised, the number of migrant workers from rural areas continues to increase. However, due to ongoing urban development, migrant housing in the major cities (chengzongcun) is being demolished. Moreover, hukou restrictions make it difficult for rural-urban migrants to find adequate housing in the urban host cities. Ultimately, these issues contribute to the social exclusion faced by migrants, which continues to negatively impact their overall well-being and livelihoods. At the same time, urban development plans occurring in peri-urban Guangzhou are taking over older residential settlements. The relationship between various urban development and expansion schemes had, and will, continuously disrupt both the environmental and cultural conditions of what once were villages.

In response to these challenges, this thesis proposes implementing a community housing scheme for rural-urban migrants residing in the peri-urban regions of Guangzhou. The primary objective of this thesis is to create housing that goes beyond fulfilling essential living needs by fostering positive communities and accommodating diverse household structures for rural-urban migrants. Furthermore, this thesis aims to take this housing design scheme to reintroduce Chinese architectural elements on a master plan level, thereby challenging existing urban development plans.

This research is structured in five phases: a literature review, a precedent study analysis, a design framework establishment, developing a housing prototype, and applying the developed prototype to a site. The literature is examined to grasp theoretical perspectives of the social impacts of the hukou system, existing housing environments, multi-generational household dynamics and flexible housing design principles. Three precedent studies are evaluated: A study on the vernacular Tulou dwellings (a traditional form of Chinese collective housing) followed by two contemporary buildings of a similar typology. These studies are conducted to determine the best design principles that enable community living. Specific areas are focused on: circulation, private, semi-public and public spatial relationships in shared spaces, and residential units. Following these studies, a design framework is established encompassing these findings. This framework guides the development of the flexible, communal housing prototype. The developed prototype is adapted to a selected site with prevailing urban development schemes to assess its adaptability to the site’s context. This research has the potential to positively impact the housing conditions of Chinese rural-urban migrants in peri-urban areas, thereby enhancing the overall quality of life for the residents. Moreover, it provides an alternative adaptable urban typology that embraces traditional Chinese architectural elements in a contemporary design.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Wilhelm, Hans-Christian