High Speed China – MITOR
The research project “High Speed China” is part of the MITOR framework, a research program funded and promoted by Politecnico di Torino with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The project was built and developed by the Polito group of China Room, MIT China Future City Lab and MIT Senseable City Lab, focusing on the development of China’s high-speed rail network related to economic and spatial development.
The railway station, as a connecting node to the national network, becomes the main promoter of several urban transformations. The phenomenon is investigated in the economic consequences through quantitative parameters related to urban vibrancy (link). From a spatial point of view, through the construction of diachronic maps, the role of the station in re-articulating the connected small towns and villages is investigated (link).
This project aims at combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies in the analysis of high-speed railway (HSR) new cities in China, and the factors determining their growth. This project engages with the experience of one of the most rapidly urbanizing countries through a comparative study of HSR new urban developments.
The proposal looks at urban restructuring as an effect of rapid infrastructurization of non-coastal cities. Urban growth in Chinese cities of the interior, which in many cases still reveal a complex “urban-rural binary” (Kendall, 2015), has seen an increase of interest in recent academic literature. However, many studies have focused on highlighting the tensions and contradictions in terms of social and economic restructuring, while the forms and features of these urbanization processes—particularly in terms of spatial transformations—have certainly received less attention. The analysis of this latter aspect therefore represents the main objective of this research project.
The research project aims to investigate the urban form of inner “small cities” along the Shanghai-Kunming infrastructural corridor related to their new High Speed Railway stations.
The rural restructuring process in the inner China, underlined by the massive development of the HSR network, raises issues about the relationship between city, rural landscape and infrastructure, able to put in crisis the urban-rural traditional dualism. Firstly, the systematic and diachronic mapping of the cities allows to measure the quantitative and morphological transformations in process. Secondly, an in-depth analysis of the area around the station, allows us to define the status of the forms of urbanization and infrastructuring – as physical but even relational tension between places – (K. Easterling, 2018). How does the influence of an infrastructural hub as the station materialize in its direct surroundings? Is there a wider field of influence that can let us consider proximity as a minor topic? Does the relationship between infrastructural hub and city define a common model in city production or does it produce an atlas of urban materials and solutions?
Answering these questions would allow us to describe the typological characteristics of this new form of “rural urbanity”, defining the role and the relationships between infrastructural spaces and cities.