China is currently undergoing a migration of unprecedented scale, losing approximately three hundred rural villages each day. To put the speed and scale of this transformation into context, in 1980 approximately 80 percent of Chinese lived in rural villages. Today, more than half of the population lives in cities. This trend is expected to accelerate under a government plan to move an additional 250 million rural residents into cities by the year 2025.
Founded in 2006, RUF uses design strategies to transform the hollowed-out cities and burgeoning urban sprawl created by this exodus. By engaging inhabitants in the design process and integrating the built and natural environment, RUF has completed successful projects in 18 communities across China. The scale of the projects ranges from small interventions, such as bridges and prototype housing construction, to the post-disaster reconstruction of an entire village.
“In China and the world, we live in an urban age,” says RUF co-founder John Lin, “but we believe its future course is intertwined with the fate of the rural.” Combining knowledge of rural-urban migration issues with extensive research at the local level, the design team has responded with innovative solutions to reinvigorate communities. These projects include a hospital in Angdong Village, a school in Qinmo Village and an innovative design for new homes and infrastructure in Shijia Village. The Shijia Village project fosters that community’s economic self-reliance with rainwater collection and food drying systems, and an underground biogas system to produce energy for cooking.
RUF’s co-founders, John Lin and Joshua Bolchover, were raised in depopulating cities – Lin in the United States’ Rust Belt, and Bolchover in Manchester – which deeply informs their practice. Born in Taiwan, Lin studied at Cooper Union in New York and taught at the Royal Danish Academy before relocating to Hong Kong. Bolchover was educated at Cambridge and London’s Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and has worked in New York, London and Hong Kong. Lin and Bolchover are on the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong.