In order to critically examine and explore Taishan’s context, we have delved deep into four different areas of design research: Historical, Political, Spatial, and Heritage. The research is a broad framework through which to understand the context of Taishan’s current catalyst for change and past transformation. In the historical and policy sections, events and policy that have impacted social structures and urban form are examined, including how shifts in land-use administration change stakeholder power and how policies in tourism and heritage have transformed the built fabric of the region. In spatial politics, varying determinants are identified to understand the part-to-part relationships and various scales of collective space. Finally, the heritage section compares the common forms of heritage production and how state, private and local power dynamics play out in each.

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︎  History

︎  Rural Policy

︎  Spatial Politics

︎  Heritage

为了批判性地审视台山的整体环境,我们深入研究了四个领域:历史、政治、空间、及文化遗产。我们希望通过对这四个领域的调研构建一个框架,借助它去了解台山的转型历程和当下的变化模式。在历史和政策部分,我们聚焦于影响社会结构和城市形态的重要事件及政治政策。其中其中包括土地改革、户籍变更,以及旅游和遗产政策如何改变此地区的肌理。在空间政策方面,我们辨识了多种因素对集体公地产生的影响和其之间的政治关联。关于文化遗产,我们鉴别了常见的保护形式, 并深入了解了国家、地方、和私人在文化遗产保护过程中扮演的不同角色。


This timeline traces Taishan’s history from the Qing Dynasty up until the Reform Era, with national and international events distinguished. A duality of hardship and opportunity marks these centuries, which witnessed war, mass migration, and agrarian reform. All while Taishan County’s population grew both domestically and overseas and by the end of this timeline, the latter population would rival and eventually surpass the former.


Rural Policy

While national and international policy has long shaped Taishan, during its early development the county maintained strong autonomy, operating under its own form of social governance. It was not until the post-reform era that top-down policy began to affect local action. This shift is marked most clearly by the 2006 policy, “Building a New Socialist Countryside” which sought to extend the project of modernization beyond urban centers and reduce urban-rural inequalities. Since 2006, ambitious and increasingly specific policies are targeting four key areas - heritage, tourism, land use, and population. An overarching theme is an emphasis on the tertiary economic sector, specifically the domestic tourism industry. The county is now poised to leverage its location and resources to catalyze a second era of prosperity.

虽然国家政策和国际政策长期以来影响着台山,但在其早期发展过程中,台山县保持着强大的地方自治,形成了独特的社会治理形式。直到改革后时代,自上而下的政策才开始影响台山的地方权力。这一转变最明显的标志是2006年中央政府提出得“建设社会主义新农村”政策,该政策提出全面开展现代化农村,进而削弱城乡不平等。 自2006年以来,该政策针对四个关键领域:文化遗产、旅游、土地改革和农村人口,提出了一系列具体的目标和策略。该政策的主旨是提升农村经济,其中一主要抓手是旅游业。借着这些政策的东风,台山历史悠久的文化传承和优良生态赋予了其了进入第二个繁荣时代的好基础。

Spatial Relationships

Examining the history of Taishan’s urban form is critical to contextualizing the county’s present and rapidly approaching future, as current forces overlay onto this historic spatial landscape. At each of the five scales identified in this research, basic types and subsequent models are identified. Types are distinct formal elements that serve as a basis for various iterative models, which diverge to accommodate specific uses or utilize new technologies. Though they vary greatly in scale, program, and ornament, models retain their type’s core spatial principles.

Four factors - political, economic, social, and environmental - most significantly influence urban and architectural form. Each factor’s presence and intensity varies depending on scale and era. Political factors are those which involve governance structures, while economic factors refer to integration with trading and production systems. Social factors explore residents’ relationship to one another, and ecological factors refer to the influence of natural systems. These settlements developed under dynastic rule with a strong emphasis on each element. More recently, political and economic factors have eclipsed social and ecological ones, resulting in spaces that often disconnect residents from one another and natural systems. This research seeks to serve as a basis for design practices that re-center social and ecological considerations.



What defines a particular peoples heritage is a contested and constantly redefined list. Multiple actors, from the state to the individual each popularize and promote certain aspects in order to frame a narrative about their own culture. In Taishan, as cultural tourism is increasingly a form of economic activity, the heritage it chooses to be aligned with and promote is by its very nature selectively parsed from a broader cultural activity. As a way to structure the various heritage of the region, we have parsed both intangible and tangible heritage into three categories: social governance, state governance, and privatization. Social governance involves the most people at the lowest rungs of society. It often operates in informal ways, and under its umbrella are the things and ideas carried forth by common people and come out of unstructured happenings. State governance are properly ‘authorized’ forms of heritage, usually denoted in lists from the government, and codified into appropriate laws and regulations. These forms are the best funded forms, and receive much of the credibility that all forms of history and culture seek to self-validate with. The Chinese government in recent years has increased the breadth of what it defines as heritage (including the intangible festivals, songs, etc.), but it has also had a history of censoring topics which do not align with its official narrative. Privatization heritage are the popular methods by which heritage is spread and consumed purley for commercial profit. These forms of heritage may come in and out of the other two categories, but ultimately gain prominence through their capitalistic dissemination.

All forms of heritage wax and wane under each of these categories. However, social governance, apart from state or private heritage, lacks the capital to sustainably carry forth its truth into the next generations. In an increasingly free-market Chinese system, the very economic forces which have sidelined rural regions also seek to reaffirm pressure on its local heritage to perform in a private market, or be recognized under a system of global, national, or provincial regulation. This project, Taishan Commons, is an attempt to elevate the social heritage and seek new possibilities for its resurgence and perpetuation, apart from either exploitative capital or exclusive legislation.






Local Projects

Haiping Wu’s, “Lemon Boat” Jam Shop

Chengtao Zhi’s, Antique Store & Homestay

Huixiang Zhao’s, Homestay & Canteen  

Jianlin Guo’s, Homestay

Yidan Guo’s, Homestay & Cultural Education

Local Projects

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages. UNESCO World Heritage Site. ︎︎︎  

Haikou Museum. Local Government. ︎︎︎  

Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements. UNESCO. ︎︎︎

Chinese Intangible Heritage. ︎︎︎

Guangdong Heritage Protection.  ︎︎︎

Local Projects

Chikan Old Town. Kaiping.  ︎︎︎

Let the Bullets Fly, Film. China Film Group. ︎︎︎

Local Aloe Farm & Hotel. American Global Health Group, (AGHG). ︎︎︎