Synergetic Expressions

Vicky Chen, Benjamin Keller, & Kwang Lee

Underinvestment is strangling the Duanfen region. Countryside villages are depopulating and disappearing, in favor of larger metropolitan areas with ample employment opportunities. The area boasts profound historical and cultural capital, but negligence has deteriorated these assets to the point of erasure. The verdant landscape is a victim of aggressive subsistence farming and environmental contamination. The consequence of these processes is the fraying of a once thriving community fabric that found vitality in the practices of traditional village living. To stabilize the decline, sufficient incentive must be created to retain and begin to attract the demographic we have termed the missing middle— working adults aged 20 to 50. These are residents, emigrants to larger cities, and overseas Chinese people around the world who no longer see a viable future for them in Duanfen, many who have the additional responsibility of children and parents to care for.

Regional Plan



Job creation, while entirely indispensable, will not provide the solutions alone. Investment in infrastructure, health and educational facilities, public space, and even leisure amenities underlay a community that can truly sustain itself. With the goal of providing a standard of living coequal with an urban equivalent, we suggest a model for a rural-urban arbitration that does not coerce the village to become megolopolis, but instead embraces the eccentricities of both settings. Tourism is used as a precipitating driver. Drawing on distinctive architectural vernacular, resplendent agricultural fields, and a powerful collective history, we explore the junctures of the inhabitant and visitor experiences. Cognizant that a desire to emphasize the bucolic can devolve into trivializing indigenous populations, we ground our approach in a community centered process, powered by an assessment survey that amplifies local voices. The result is appealing placemaking that attracts visitors to its sights and sounds, yet is rational and contemporary in its progression of form and utility.

Sufficiency for a villager’s immediate needs is achieved through clustering; of services, of infrastructure, and of productivity. Nevertheless, the urban and the rural remain deeply intertwined, allowing the routines of daily life to flow freely between them. Public transportation augments a network of trails, roads and paths to facilitate comprehensive access. Throughout, across all scales, attention is devoted to developing environments that promote health, wellbeing, and flourishing for every participant.