Project & Fieldwork Preface

Project Title: Building Heritage (Using Heritage to Create Power)

My CDRS project proposes to build a craft guildhall to empower migrants in urban villages in Chinese cities.

The design/research project lies within the discussions of critical heritage studies and collective urban action in the form of craft guilds. In terms of design, it looks into the materiality of heritage in terms of natural materials such as timber.

My fieldwork period was spent looking at a number of case studies in the area of urban heritage. This began with my site, Xiaozhou Village, which is an urban village in Guangzhou. An urban village is an informal settlement in China that has historical roots in rural villages, best illustrated through a before-now photo comparison here. I spent a large amount of time living in the urban village speaking to villagers, migrants and artists there. While being in the city I also had opportunities to interview a number of academics engaged in built heritage as well as intangible heritage conservation. I also made visits to urban villages at different levels of maturity in the southern cities, including Xian, Liede, Shipai, Chepi and Baishizhou etc., as well as different categories of heritage, such as urban monuments. I then went on to a number of different places and projects exploring issues surrounding heritage such as commercialisation, gentrification and vernacular urbanism. The places that I went to include a micro-regeneration project in Beijing (Baitasi), a rural village guest house regeneration/community project in Hunan, an urban village artists’ workshop in Shenzhen (Dalang), case studies in Pingyao Ancient city in Shanxi, preserved villages in Anhui and Lijiang in Yunnan amongst others.

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