Landfill has been an important way in growing Chinese coastal cities to create land and accommodate the increasing housing demand. Such developments are often heavily subsidized by the central and local government. However, we believe such model of urban growth can be devastating, especially to the ecosystems and the environment. Hoping to explore robust environmental strategies in China’s urban development, our “Littoral Gradient” team is investigating real estate development projects built on reclaimed land along Chinese coast. The research first focuses on generating an “atlas” of carefully selected projects, scrutinizing their conception, development processes, and impacts. Following the atlas, we will being to prototype and design new models for real estate development on reclaimed land.
As the Chinese native speaker in the team, I want to contribute my knowledge about China and help with gathering useful data. For the first step of the research, I have been exploring news articles, planning documents, government reports, historical maps, and Chinese literature seeking to identify potential cases for further investigation. Through group discussions, we have learned about thirty to forty projects, and narrowed down to the nine most representative and provocative ones, based on their locations, programs, and impacts. During IAP, I will meet with local planners, officials and experts in China.
Within the “Littoral Gradient” project team at the CAU, I have been working on an atlas, documenting selection of on-going urban development projects on reclaimed land along the coast of China. I work with Xi Qiu (Colleen), DUSP PhD student and fellow team member, to gather information on projects. Then, the cases are located, mapped, and modeled in order to demonstrate comparatively the dynamics of land reclamation and city-building processes.
The projects vary in scale and timeframes, but as a whole, they are outcomes of China’s rapid urbanization despite challenges and risks associated with coastlines. The ambitious masterplans envisioning a static, peak urban condition are challenged when land subsidence is observed in some cases, or when construction of the built fabric is stalled due to economic burden of shaping the shoreline. Urban form seems to follow the economic and technical processes (and challenges) of and reclamation. The case studies I have been working on have also broadened my horizons for my SMArchS thesis research, where I am looking at coastal urbanism on reclaimed land and how pro-growth and pro-resilience agendas could be brought together. In both thesis and “Littoral Gradient”, I am excited that research aims to identify critical sites of intervention and propose strategies for a critical coastal urbanism.
A key research component to CAU’s “Littoral Gradient” project is the development of coastal terrain prototypes. This branch of research aims to suggest potential strategies of creating topographical models that exhibit flexibility, resilience, and a thorough understanding of the complexity of the evolving urban and natural needs. In other words, how can we design a variable and flexible coastal gradient that fulfills urban needs, while working within such naturally dynamic coastlines? Thus far, I’ve developed this branch of the project through a series of varied investigations.
First, through studying and illustrating the current prominent processes of dredging and land reclamation, I’ve outlined the complexities of creating land for urban growth. Similarly, the mappings I developed showing the global climate of natural sand import and export shed light on the networks necessary to sustain current methods of reclaiming land given the growing scarcity of smooth coastal sands. Moreover, through developing a survey of current methods in mitigating natural coastal erosion, I begin to illustrate how we might fuse and rework certain techniques in order to increase coastal flexibility. In parallel, I’ve been exploring different digital tools for generating digital simulations of the potential strategies of creating such terrain prototypes. Developing the Littoral Gradient is led by Prof. Brent Ryan and Fadi Masoud. Funding for this research was provided by the Sam Tak Lee Real Estate Entrepreneurship Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.