The Floating Village: Fostering Social Capital in Chinese Migrant Settlements through Mobile Architecture
In the past two decades, China has realised one of the fastest and largest rural to urban migrations in the world. The country’s urban population has increased by 20% over the last 20 years due to rapid urbanisation and a drastic improvement in urban opportunities. It is projected that by the year 2020 China aims to house 60% of its population in urban areas, resulting in a population shift of over 100 million people. One of the major issues which is presented to rural migrants is the hukou system. Hukou acts as a domestic passport which prevents rural migrants from attaining social benefits within urban areas. This has created an underclass within China’s urban areas known as the “floating population”. This thesis focuses on the architecture of the “floating villages” of China which accommodate this floating population. The floating village is an informal settlement of migrant workers which develops around construction sites. The village provides services such as food, entertainment, medical care and recycling to the construction workers., However, as a pseudo-urban typology accommodating many of the functions of a town, it lacks one important element: a focused communal area. The absence of deliberately designed a communal space has led to social tensions within the floating village due to the different cultural origins of the migrant workers. Migrant workers arrive in floating villages without knowledge of urban culture and with no communal support. Varying migrant accents, and traditions, alongside struggles with poverty, creates friction between workers. This thesis proposes a temporary and portable architectural intervention within the floating village which fosters a positive community. The research of community design is explored through an architecturalisation of Dr Robert D. Putnam’s understanding of social capital.