Migration of farmers to China’s first and second tier cities is depopulating large rural areas. This not only makes the countryside less liveable, it also destroys a part of China’s agricultural and food culture and heritage. Architects of the well-known Stefano Boeri Architetti agency have decided to contribute to a Slow Food project that aims to reverse the trend of migration.
At the Biennale in Venice, architect Stefano Boeri (well-known from his Vertical Village concept) revealed a school, a library and a small museum that that have been designed for Slow Food Villages that are to be built all over China. In collaboration with Slow Food Movement, the ‘Slow Food Freespace’ pilot project aims to protect the cultural diversity of rural China and to prevent people from moving to the big cities.
Slow Food is a movement that promotes local food and traditional cooking. It was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 and has since spread worldwide. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of local small businesses.
Conserve rural culture an products
The architects of Stefano Boeri have made their designs with the Slow Food philosophy in mind, to support an agricultural economy that values rural culture and products. The school, the library and the small museum for the villages involved in the Slow Village program are intended to help conserve traditional agriculture and food cultures. These ‘cultural epicenters’, the architects assume, will be the anchor that will help Chinese farmers to stay in rural areas instead of moving to the big cities. Preserving the knowledge about agriculture and food will help people in rural China “to invest in the future of their rural territories, rather than abandoning them to move to metropolitan suburbs.”
Combat migration to cities
“We easily forget that the rural areas provide sustainability to our daily lives. It is an inevitable necessity of architecture to confront the speed of evolution while also feeding it with the richness of the past. For this reason, we have proposed to enhance the agricultural villages with a system of small but precious catalysts of local culture, able to improve the lives of the residents”, explained Stefano Boeri.
“Preserving the rural environment means protecting the cultural diversity”, confirms Yibo Xu, Shanghai partner of Stefano Boeri Architetti. “Significant efforts have been made in the latest decades in China with regard to the urban questions and, in the future, greater attention should be paid to the versatility of expressions, traditions and patrimonies of the countryside”.
First Slow Village in Sichuan
The first Chinese Slow Village will be located in Qiyan, in the south-west province of Sichuan. The China office of Stefano Boeri Architetti will provide its design ideas and technical know-how free of charge, to help build the library, the school and the museum in Qiyan. In these buildings, the preparation, consumption and supply of food, but also the popular ancient and deeply-rooted traditions that surround it are to be preserved and taught to locals. The centres are expected to attract Chinese and international tourists.
Stefano Boeri became famous all over the world with his ‘Vertical Forests’, sustainable residential buildings with lots of trees, shrubs and plants in city centers. The first Vertical Forests consisting of two residential towers of 110 and 76 m height, have been built in Milan. The facades of the two towers were fitted with 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants.
Stefano Boeri Architetti