My project is a counter typology of creative clusters in China for 4000 rural-urban migrants to live and work in urban village, this number will be potentially doubled in the future due to the abolishing of the household registry system.
These rural-urban migrants are commonly referred as ‘floating population’, because of the Chinese two tier household register system - Hukou, these people are excluded from all the urban welfare. Cities like Beijing are experiencing an enormous influx of floating population, majority of them are forced to congregating in the urban village for cheaper living costs. However, the potential abolishing of the Hukou system giving everyone equal right to the government housing scheme will put huge pressure on the situation. With particular interests on this vulnerable group, my thesis research focus on one of the an informal creative clusters in the urban village in Beijing which shows a very interesting phenomenon in a city that is undergoing significant reformation and urbanization dominated by the private sectors.
In recent decades, the Chinese Government has begun to put emphasis on ‘soft power’. The creative industry entered the national agenda, becoming a new driving force in Beijing. The dominant symbol of creativity in China would be the ‘creative clusters’, which transfer the intangible ‘creativity’ to more tangible things, but less so to innovation itself. Such as art villages where artefacts are manufactured in a assembly line. Among the creative classes, artists are the most competitive individuals, the skyrocketing art market has pushed competition to white hot for limited recourses and opportunities. Eventually this law of the jungle has pushed out many young and unknown artists from the district, such as in 798 art district once the link between the space and artist is established and legitimised, the commercialisation occurs. Also paradoxically, such an economy based on mobility occurred in a place where mobility was restricted by the Hukou system. While many creative clusters followed a typical western art-let gentrification, Caochangdi in a contrary shows its natural resistance, and allows a place certain solidarity can establish.
Caochangdi is a spontaneous cluster that revived by artists and galleries moving into the outskirts of Beijing. In the village three distinctive groups of the social classes: artists, local villagers and rural-urban migrants involuntarily formed an alliance that holds off the gentrification. However this alliance exists in a form of exploitation between these parties. The village is still under siege of gentrification. Many young or unknown artists were pushed out from Caochangdi because of the increasing rent, now only a minority of famous artists are left. A real solidarity is the only way out to this familiar horror. A solidarity among the all kinds of the artists and different classes. The promotion of the ‘soft power’ offers a great political support and opportunities to form a solidarity within the ‘creative cluster’. A state subsidised affordable housing scheme will be proposed alongside the artist studios and galleries to form a new typologies of creative cluster. Villagers are the investors and the developers of the project since they were already doing it informally.
The project is trying to re-aggregate this informal alliance to form a solidarity within the village through a typological solution, where all kinds of artists share spaces with others social classes in a non-hierarchical space.