Joshua Bolchover and John Lin set up Rural Urban Framework as a design and research lab at the University of Hong Kong. Over the past 10 years, RUF has focused on sites impacted by the dynamics between the urban and rural transformation. Conducted as a non-profit organization providing design services to charities and NGOs working in China, RUF has built or is currently engaged in over 15 projects in various villages in China. As a result of this active engagement, RUF has been able to research the links between social, economic, and political processes and the physical transformation of each village.
Thirty years ago, the majority of people in China were farmers. By 2005, however, the Chinese government announced its plan to urbanize half of the remaining 700 million rural citizens by 2030. Between the previously financially homogenous upper-division of society and the population’s major proportion of farmers emerged a middle class. This new societal structure has resulted in a new spatial logic whereby the binary relationship between rural and urban is no longer valid either socially or in the context of the physical and material world.
In many places, built form, density, and population levels that one would typically attribute to urban areas are still legally defined as rural land. Additionally, in areas quickly becoming developed, there are no clear systems to maintain the environment and prepare it for the shift to urbanization. For example, as a high volume of waste is mainly an urban issue, many rural communities do not have prepared, clear systems of garbage collection. In Chingeltei, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, RUF set out to create a demonstration project that could facilitate the hygienic collection of rubbish. The project engaged neighborhood participation and outreach to improve the scheduling of trucks and influence policy from the Mayor’s office to alter how they administered city-wide waste collection.
Currently the work of RUF continues to focus on both the impact of urbanization in rural China, and the impact of rural nomads settling in the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The projects include schools, community centers, hospitals, village houses, bridges, and incremental planning strategies and integrate local and traditional construction practices with contemporary technologies.