This book is a record of Studio TAO's five-year design and research work on the Xianqiao sustainable community project in Chongming Island, Shanghai. There are three motivations behind the projects: First is the concern over the mainstream paradigm of one-way urbanization in China. The second is the social responsibility of designers, as part of an intellectual community with certain knowledge, skills and ways of thinking. Thirdly, we focus on the development of the design discipline and subjects in the contemporary era.
We cannot ignore cultural heritage if we want to develop a truly sustainable society. As the kitchen is one of the most important places in a Chinese house, it shall-again-become a symbol of health, happiness, and prosperity for present and future generations. Our task was to find new perspectives as well as to discuss the feasibility of implementation with Chinese users.
This book shows the process of our research, from the very beginning of exploring the Chinese urbanization process, to the vision, solutions and strategies raised by designerly ways of thinking. Our research activities clearly go in the direction of an alternative proposal for contemporary urbanization that diverges from the traditional industrialized processes towards a services-based society in which heritage and resources are shared among different stakeholders. We pursued this as a concrete, factual, possible future horizon for Chinese development. We start from together with the local communities to give value to the territories. In the last five years we designed, we communicated, we failed and we tried again, as we searched for ways to conduct a proactive practice-based design research. Here we tell the story of our academic inspirations, practical experiments, future steps, and shared dreams.