Investigating densities, spatial extents and economic hybridities of urban-rural regions in Asia, and proposing new typologies for sustainable urbanisation
This research is focused on the complex patterns of settlement emerging in the hinterlands of many large cities in Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent and China. All cities have their hinterlands of one kind or another. This study is specifically interested in the hinterlands of cities surrounded by tropical, wet-rice agriculture.
It has this interest in part because many cities in Asia are surrounded by this kind of agriculture. More importantly, such hinterlands have very specific ecological, economic and demographic characteristics, which mean they interact with nearby urban centres in distinctive ways. Most notably, wet-rice agriculture supports relatively high population densities with fine-grained land-use patterns. When cities encroach upon such areas, the rural does not immediately give way to the urban and instead a hybrid rural-urban typology emerges. Sometimes dubbed desakota landscapes (Indonesian for ‘village’ and ‘city’), they are neither strictly urban nor rural in character, but a mixture of both.
Scholars have suggested this is a distinctly Asian settlement type that is an anomalous urban condition compared to cities elsewhere. In sheer quantitative terms such urban-rural regions already represent one of the world’s dominant forms of settlement. Despite this, we have little up-to-date information on the extent of this settlement type in Asia or its current characteristics. Furthermore, it is unclear what planning approaches, urban design strategies, and material and technological interventions might effectively ameliorate the most damaging, and enhance the positive characteristics about such rapidly changing, urban-rural settlement types.
Even more speculatively, what might such regions suggest for alternative visions of settlement elsewhere? Could it be that contemporary urban-rural regions of Asia contain the seeds for sustainable pathways to urbanisation? Could such hybrid regions offer insights into ameliorating the interconnected threats of urban population growth, deteriorating quality of urban environments, and declining productivity of agricultural regions?
The research will:
1) Research the spatial extent, rates of change, socio-economic character and ecological systems in Asian urban-rural regions
2) Model the demographic, economic and ecological interdependencies of such regions
3) Propose a range of urban design approaches, typological models, adaptable urban technologies suited to their character.