Migrant Community Center – Shanghai

Designed By Chris Chalmers and Jason Chang

Studio taught by Peter Anderson and Doris Guerrero, Fall Term 2007 California College of the Arts Master of Architecture program

This is a hypothetical proposal for a community center that would serve migrant laborers living and working in the many “development zones” located by large cities in China. The project’s client is an imaginary NGO that identifies the temporary shanty-towns where workers reside (often with their families) and deploys a center there. When work dries up and migrants move on, the center will pack up and move on as well.

typical migrant worker housing

Migrants are provided very little support by the Chinese government. When they leave their legal homes in the countryside, they give up their right to education for their children & basic health care. One goal of the migrant centers is to fill the gap by offering these basic services in place of the government. The centers also offer knowledge and tools for small-scale opportunistic farming, which is already practiced in many migrant settlements. The centers also offer migrants the use of composting toilets (providing fertilizer for gardening) and showers (providing gray-water irrigation). We anticipate that this kind of support would be welcomed by the corporations, who own the land on which the migrants settle, because it would make workers healthier, more effective and ultimately more profitable.

Perhaps the most important services offered by the centers are likely to be less welcomed by the corporations. The in the evenings, the centers offer classes in union organizing and adult education in trades that are more lucrative than migrant labor. Each center also has a satellite uplink providing internet access and international phone lines. With satellite access, the centers also form a distributed information network (like a wiki) with nodes at each of the major development zones all across China. With up-to-the-minute information on wages and working conditions at each zone, workers gain bargaining power in the free market. They decide whether to stay where they are, negotiate with the factory, or find more favorable work.

Being Nomadic, the migrant community center would have to adapt to a variety of sites, both urban and rural. For an example project, we chose a development outside of Shanghai called KangQiao, shown in the satellite photos below, (notice what looks like migrant housing just to the right of the site).


night shot showing blankets
exploded axonometric showing whole system

interior showing water-catchment cone and living machine



axxon of bamboo attachment to flooring panel

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2 thoughts on “Migrant Community Center – Shanghai

    • 3d studio max and Rhino for the project. They both allow month long trials and Rhino has a student version. Google sketchup is free but I don’t recommend it for the type of modeling on our blog.

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