A Rural-Urban Dichotomy
Asian cities are growing fast, and to power this growth, the largest rural-urban migration seen in human history is underway. Millions have moved, and continue to do so—from small towns and villages to large metropolitan centres. This flow creates a dichotomy: the city and the countryside are evolving into two distinct conditions.
In this issue, coverage of cities like Dhaka and Manila sheds light on life in the city, where migrants have no spatial legitimacy. Life happens in leftover spaces with little or no supporting infrastructure. As we delved into the topic, we found no examples of cities that valued this interstitial existence. The only positive example in this issue, the Nantou Old Town Regeneration in Shenzhen, China, shows how a growing city incorporates peri-urban villages, turning them into urban villages. But this is not about dealing with migrant populations as such. If there are good examples out there, we did not find them. It is likely that this absence of projects is a reflection of the priorities on the ground.
There is interestingly no shortage of projects from the countryside. These are mostly prototypes of housing and community buildings. There is even an entire village (Jackfruit Village) that shows how the old ways blend in with new techniques. These rural projects tell us that materiality and community participation are important. Someday, when the urbanisation pendulum swings back to favour the rural condition, these projects will show us how to combine the low-impact charm of the village with the convenience and comfort of the city.
We’ve learnt that the topic of rural-urban dichotomy is hard to generalise. But we hope that you will see snapshots of life on the fringes in this issue.