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MOBILE STREET ENCROACHMENT Shared Living Space in Lilong, Shanghai

Chun(Pure) Zheng


Master of Urban Design Thesis 2017-2018 Carnegie Mellon

Jonathan Kline Stefan Gruber


Lilong(里弄) is a traditional community form originated in the 1850s in Shanghai, China. “Li” means “inner”. “Long” means “street”. Lilong neighborhoods are communities centered on several interconnected lanes.

The architectural form of Lilong neighborhoods encouraged an intimate living environment. The public space in Lilong neighborhoods has traditionally been used for a mix of household activities, socializing, informal exchanges, and communal facilities. However, demographic and economic pressures in the last two decades have brought an influx of new migrants into these communities, creating conflicts with local residents around the sharing of public space.

Meanwhile, for over 20 years, Lilong neighborhood, as one type of urban villages in China, has been facing the dilemma of preservation and demolition. Under the pressure of the market and governmental force, many local residents in Lilong neighborhoods have given up their homes in the city center and moved to the edge of the city, not to mention the number of migrant residents that have been displaced.

The aims of this project are: in the shortterm, to allow local residents and migrants to renegotiate the sharing of public space and to cooperatively appropriate the use of the street; and in the long-term, to change the perception of Lilong neighborhoods and advocates for their preservation.

Inspired by the daily activities and encroachments on the streets in Lilong, the project creates a mobile temporary intervention that allows residents to engage in their everyday appropriations of the streets in a novel way, disrupting their normal social dynamics and drawing attention to the plight of their community.

While most of the professional training, thinking, and strategies of urban designers are threedimensional, this project tries to prioritize the temporal dimension in design. The project raises questions of how can temporary uses become neighborhood catalysts, how to change residents’ conversation by changing their users’ experience and how can we imagine the temporary interventions being institutionalized.

The Commons and Temporary Use Urban Villages in China

Lilong History and Status








Urban Milieu Location


Conflicts Between Locals and Migrants Household Activities in Public Realm




Proposal Mobile Street Encroachment Process of Commoning Beyond Temporality






Appendix Photography





Context The Commons and Temporary Use Urban Villages in China Lilong History and Status



Compatibility, translatability, power sharing and gift offering are indeed forms of relations between subjects of commoning that encourage commoning to expand beyond the limits of any closed community. Expanding commoning always invites different groups or individuals to become co-producers of common world-in-the-making. – Stavros Stavrides, Common Space: The City as Commons, 2016

The Commons and Temporary Use The city is undergoing a major shift from traditional economic market to a redistribution market in which people’s consumption value is switching from possession to sharing. In the heart of this transition process of the cities lies ‘The Commons”. Public space is managed by the authorities and belongs to the government or public groups. Private space has a clear ownership, which limits the access to the outsiders. The Commons, however, in the middle of the public and the private, is a third area where it’s able to empower the participants of the commoning process with equal rights to access, engage and govern the shared resource.

Most of the professional training, thinking and strategies of urban designers are threedimensional. But, of course, the city is fourdimensional, and we need to acknowledge the influence of time in design. Similarly, there has been relatively little research on the importance of interim, short-term or temporary activities in urban areas. In an era of increasing pressure on scarce resources, vacancy and dereliction shouldn’t always wait for developers to start new development and realize them step by step. Thus, temporary use is increasingly important for urban design. David Harvey says in the book “Rebel Cities”, The commons is not ‘a particular kind of thing’ but ‘an unstable and malleable social relation between a particular self-defined social group and those aspects of its actually existing or yet-to-be-created social and/or physical


The Commons brings people together, who often are disadvantaged social groups. It is built from the inside and reimagines the cities on the often disregarded, outlived or scrapped resources that are valuable but neglected today.


environment deemed crucial to its life and livelihood’. The commons is not only the physical spaces of self-governance but also a constant and collective negotiation process. It’s by nature always in the making and thus, temporary interventions often become the starting point of the commons. The temporary situations are taken as opportunities to experiment with alternative ways of live-work and sometimes have fewer political and legal limits. Temporary can be a powerful tool through which we can drip-feed initiatives for incremental change. In the temporary state, the commons provides an opportunity in flux because temporality allows the users to try alternative ways of live-work together and the users are more open to changes. Sometimes, temporary uses are also limited to fewer legal/ political restrictions. The famous Time Square Intervention(Figure 1) is a model of temporary use. The result of the temporary changes in time square was dramatic led to the decision of the permanent closure of Broadway at Time Square.

However, the opportunities opened by temporality come with challenges as well. Sometimes, the temporary interventions don’t have enough energy to sustain their momentum. Sometimes, they can successfully revitalize neighborhoods, attract investment but they would easily go through the trajectories of displacement. Even they can expand and scale up, they still face the challenged of losing their emancipation power. In the book–the city as commons, Stavrides talked about The expanding of the commons should always keep the compatibility. Commons should always invite different groups or individuals to become coproducers which means the commons shouldn’t be over-institutionalized when expanding.

This thesis project tries to prioritize the temporal dimension in design and explores how can temporary uses become neighborhood catalysts.


Figure 1: Temporary Seatings on Time Square

Figure 1: An Urban Village Chongqing

Figure 2: An Urban Village in Shenzen

Figure 3: Hutong in Beijing

Figure 4: Lilong in Shanghai

Urban Villages in China UN-HABITAT defines a slum as “an urban area where people don’t have durable housings, sufficient living space, clear water, adequate sanitation and security.” Although because the land belongs to the government in China, we can still consider urban villages in China as slums with slightly different qualities.

Urban villages are “cheap” urban spaces. The property rights of the urban villages often collectively belong to the community as a whole. It lacks the legal status as standard urban land in China and thus, it lacks public services that should have been provided by the government. Therefore, living in urban villages costs much lower than in other urban areas. The low cost meets exactly the needs of the new migrants in the city from other provinces and rural areas. Lilong(里弄) is a traditional community form originated in the 1850s in Shanghai, China. “Li” means “inner”. “Long” means “street”. Lilong neighborhoods are communities centered on several interconnected lanes.

Lilong is one of the many urban villages in China, like the Hutong(胡同) in Beijing. They have precious architecture value but have gradually lost their functions in modern urban life.


After Chinese Economic Reform in 1978, Chinese cities have experienced rapid expansion, and massive demolition strategy caters to such urban reform. However, due to various reasons, some neighborhoods are left behind from the demolition and become urban villages. In the process of the formation of urban villages, the monopoly of land resources by the government and the control of land supply by administrative forces are the primary reasons.












Figure 1: Subdivisions of a Lilong Unit Over Time

Informal Stucture Informal Stucture

Objects Objects



Lilong History and Status The original formation of Lilong started with the refugees running into Shanghai’s International Settlements during the war. Lilong housing was built to provide the accommodation for the refugees. After the 1850s, more and more Chinese flooded into the International Settlements including businessmen, upper class and common people. The scale of Lilong housing kept increasing at that time. Because of the surge of people and the high price of property in Shanghai, the layout of Lilong was not so reasonable and well considered at the beginning. Living space was very precious and several families often crowded in a single building.

To meet the urban development needs, Shanghai started to demolish Lilong neighborhoods in the 90s. The government has published several regulations to define the use of some Lilongs. However, some of the regulations have conflicts with each other which brought questions for not only the inhabitants but also the public. For example, in 2014, a government document defined Goyingfang Lilong neighborhood as ‘shantytown-reconstruction area’ which needed an overall physical upgrade. However, in 2015, another document zoned the neighborhood as ‘excellent historic buildings’ which was not allowed to be changed. Lilong is constantly under the controversy of preservation and demolition.


Due to the Chinese Civil War and Culture Revolution, the development of Lilong stalled from 1945 to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The real development of real estate market in Shanghai started from 1992 when Deng Xiaoping carried out the market-oriented economic reform. As the real estate market experienced constant booming in Shanghai, Lilong housings, at the same time, were brought into the public’s view because of their locations in the heart of Shanghai.

Just because something isn’t to your taste, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have the chance to age gracefully. – Teresa Mathew, Dead Brutalist Buildings, 2018

Very few successful cases are witnessed so far and most of the Lilong residents have suffered from time-consuming negotiations and even physical conflicts during the process of achieving multure agreements with the government.

Figure 1: Demolished Jiangjia Bang Neighborhood, 2018

Two months after this thesis project was started, a developer bought the entire area with $1.6 billion and almost overnight, the neighborhood was gone. Where are the residents going? Can the migrants find another cheap place to live like here in such a short time? There are too many questions came with this massive demolition.


Nowadays, many of the residents in Lilongs are tenants instead of the real owners because most of the homeowners themselves have moved into high-rises. The average price of purchasing Lilong properties is 30,000-50,000 yuan (4,4777,462 USD) per square meter in recent years due to the booming of real estate market in Shanghai. The homeowners prefer to hold the property and rent out the houses to the low-income people who don’t care much about living conditions. The demolition of Lilongs will cause the low-income tenants losing their homes.


Urban Milieu Location Conflicts Between Locals and Migrants Household Activities in Public Realm



China Shanghai

Figure 1: Location Diagram

Location Shanghai is one of the world’s largest metropolitans. It’s located on the southeast coast of China, next to the East China Sea. The site– Jiangjia Bang neighborhood is located in Yangpu District, one of the oldest districts in Shanghai. The neighborhood is at the intersection of a main road–Zhoujiazui Road and a river–Lanzhoulu River. Due to the lack of open data, the site analysis focused on a small 200 feet by 200 feet piece of the area as a sample.


Jiangjia Bang (Jiang Neigborhood)

Yangpu District





0 1980



Western Provinces Inland Provinces 500mi

Guangzhou Coastal Provinces


Conflicts Between Locals and Migrants

of the population are migrants Why?

to find a job/ transfer to a new job

In the past decades, China has experienced a huge internal migration wave followed by a to attend school slight decline in the recent years. The migrants leave the rural areas, mostly in the poor to start a ÂĽ provinces inland to seek the work in the cities, business especially southeast coastal cities. The urban population in China is continually growing. While the migrants contribute near 20% of the GDP in China, this phenomenon has also caused issues such as parting from the family for years and regional discrimination.


Inner ring elevated road Outer ring expressway

Tongji U


% 10 millions



0 1980

Population of Migrants

URBAN 1984











Figure 1: Internal Migration in China


Lilong neighborhoods in 1949


Wujiaochang CBD


Shanghai is one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest metropolitans in this century which also makes Left in 2016 it the most popular migration destinations, followed by Beijing and Guangzhou. Among the 23 million permanent residents in the city, the population from other provinces is 8.97 million (39%). Migrants from Anhui Province, Jiangsu Province, and Henan Province are the dominations. The top reasons for their migration are to find a better job or run a business, job transfer and to give the children a better education opportunity.


Guangzhou Coastal Provinces


of the population are migrants Why? to find a job/ transfer to a new job to attend school


to start a business



Inner ring elevated road Outer ring expressway


people per km2 > 80K 40-80K 20-40K 15-20K 2-15K 1k-2K 10mi

The “inner ring” and “outer ring” highways are used to identify the city center. The population density becomes really high towards the rings. Inside the rings, there are also more job opportunities, more convenient public transportations and higher housing prices.

In Yangpu District, Lilong neighborhoods have become urban fragments that are scattering among the high-rises and new developments. The site is really close to the inner ring highway and has all kinds of amenities around it.

Figure 1: Population Density in Shanghai



Lilong neighborhoods in 1949


Left in 2016

Wujiaochang CBD


er ring elevated road


er ring expressway Tongji University

Inner ring The site


Figure 1: Lilong Fragments in Yangpu District


The life in Lilong fragments becomes a microcosm of the migration influx in Shanghai. Low rent and central location of Lilong attract tens of thousands of new migrants. Different living habits and personal values lead to the conflicts between the migrants and local residents. In the interviews with the residents, local residents often complain the migrants not taking care of the public space. The migrants, on the other hand, show less responsibility to the public space because the neighborhood is only a temporary dwelling for them.


Figure 1: Jiangjiang Bang Neighborhood Ownership Evolution and Stakeholders

â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Ida Tam, Ran Yan and Felita Li, Reconsider Authenticity Volume II Shanghai Lilong, 2017



Lilong is not just a unique architectural typology, historic heritage, but a form of self-scoial organization, a way of life.

Informal Laundry Racks

Shared Water Sinks


Public Toilet

Figure 1: Mapping Street Ecroachments

Community Committee Office

Grocery Store

Family-run Restaurant

Tailor shop Informal Structures

Figure 1: Informal Structure on Street

Figure 2: Water Sink As Bunny Cage Holder

Informal Stucture



Figure 1: Street Encroachments Diagram

We can easily observe the tangible issues in Lilong neighborhoods: The original living units in the buildings have been divided into smaller units to meet the increasing need for spaces because of the new generations. There are still 40% of the residents who do not own a private toilet or kitchen and have to use shared facilities. We often see damaged shared facilities. Originally, the neighborhood has clear streets pattern and a clear public and private boundary. However, the residents have taken informal occupationsâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;structures built or stuff piled in the public space and destructed the urban pattern. Massive physical upgrades rely on governmental funding and canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be realized in a short time. However, can designer help residents turn the challenge of the growing needs for spaces as an opportunity?


Household Activities in Public Realm


Sharing was a tradition in Lilong neighborhoods which has been lost over time. In old days, the residents in Lilong brought their meals out to the alley and shared the food together. The old did knitting in front of their front doors and chatted with each other. Nowadays, although we can still see trading carts in the alley and people still utilize shared facilities, the tradition is long gone. We know from the residents that using the shared facilities is a sharing out of living needs instead of their willingness.

How can the temporary interventions make the existing activities visible, bring people together and encourage them to coordinate instead of doing their own things? How to preserve morphology of the neighborhood and the spirit of the traditional community but reinvent how it can be used today as a commons and imagining new ways of sharing? Household activities in the public realm are inherited from the traditional lifestyle. However, the contradiction between local residents and new migrants have made the negotiations of how to share the public streets hard. How does designer act as the facilitator to encourage the conversations among residents?


Proposal Mobile Street Encroachment Process of Commoning Beyond Temporality


Mobile Street Encroachment


The design intervention aims to create a mobile temporary intervention that allows residents to engage in their everyday appropriations of the streets in a novel way, disrupting their normal social dynamics and drawing attention to the plight of their community.



The mobile cart has a wired look and very distinct from the neighborhood context. Although the components are from the neighborhoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daily life, they are designed and organized in a novel way that breaks the residentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s normal user experience.

The table tops of the cart are divided into cooking stations, water sinks, and folding pieces. A portable washing machine, along with its water tank and battery box, is in the middle of the cart body. Underneath the water sinks are the grey water tanks and freshwater tanks. The other parts of the cart body are used for storage shared chairs, hangers, and kitchenware. The canopy of the cart is folding clothes drying racks.







The mobile object is designed as a duplicable object. It can easily be disassembled and assembled. Ideally, they can be more widely applied in different areas and neighborhoods.

Figure 1: Structure Components

Ta b


To p








Fresh Water Tank

Grey Water Tank

Backup Water Tank

Portable Battery

Sink Lid





B Hanger







Process of Commoning In particular, the project provides a meeting place for the locals and migrants to talk through their conflicts over using the public space. But all residents are welcomed to share the space for preparing meals, doing laundries, airing clothes and resting.

In exchange to use the shared facilities, residents are responsible for the daily maintenance of the cart. For example, the freshwater tanks need to be changed once they are empty. The designer and Community Committee members will supervise the physical condition and in charge of repairing if the cart is broken.

Figure 1: Process of Commoning Diagrams

The planned events are also part of the commoning process. The community committee collaborates with some residents to hold gathering events every week, such as community meal, flea market, and community meeting. They aim to raise the public awareness of the neighborhoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dilemma and provide an occasion for the large group gathering. For example, if the residents are facing displacement, community committee can arrange real estate agents or non-profit organizations to guide the residents through the moving procedures.


Some small details of the cart are designed to create a situation where the residents need to collaborate. For example, if two people want to use the sink at the same time, they need to negotiate with each other because the water tab is designed to be rotated back and forward on two sides. If someone needs to hang a large number of clothes on the canopy and the clothes sticks are not long enough. He or she needs to find a helper to lower and lift the racks together because the pulley system needs balance from two sides.

Figure 1: Process of Commoning â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Planned Events

Instead of creating self-contained areas, they (temporary uses) create public places, a magnet that, if they are successful, function as the urban hot sport. The basic principle is not exclusion but creating attractors, even if these places target a very specific public. –Philipp Oswalt, Klaus Overmeyer and Philipp Misselwitz, Urban Catalyst, The Power of Temporary Use, 2013


Beyond Temporality The designer is in charge of the preliminary installation process. The residents are all encouraged to be part of the construction process. Ideally, in the future, the residents can be the project bearers.

Based on how many people are living in the neighborhood, multiple “Mobile Street Encroachments” can be placed at the same time in one neighborhood. In the long term, they have the potential of developing one unique function each, and together, form a network in the community. People can go to one cart for washing the clothes and go to another for wifi hotspot, for example.

Facing the common challenge of being displaced, the dispute over the use of the streets become a catalyst for the residents to rethink their roles in the neighborhood. After the neighborhood is demolished, the cart can be moved to another endangered neighborhood. From another perspective, the cart can be placed in the new developments which replace the old neighborhood, or in the new neighborhood where some original residents move to. The cart can be a manifestation to inform the society that the historic neighborhoods are in danger.


Appendix Photography Bibliography


Lilong Street Life

Lilong Street Life

Lilong Street Life

Lilong Street Life

Miller Gallery SoA Thesis Exhibition

Model details

Model details

Model details

MUD Thesis Final Review

MUD Thesis Final Review

Bibliography [1] Oswalt, Philipp, Klaus Overmeyer, and Philipp Misselwitz. Urban Catalyst: The Power of Temporary use. Berlin: Dom Pub, 2013. [2] Stavrides, Stavros. Common Space: The City as Commons. London: Zed Books, 2016.

[3] Atelier Bow Wow. Behaviorology. New York: Rizzoli, 2010.


[4] Li, Yanbo. 上海里弄街区的价值(The Value of Lilong Neighborhoods in Shanghai). Shanghai: Tongji Press, 2014.

[5] Li, Felita, Ida Tam and Ran Yan. Reconsidering Authenticity Volume 2: Shanghai Lilong. Daleware: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

[6] Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. 2nd ed. London: Verso, 2013. [7] Haydn, Florian. Temporary Urban Spaces: Concepts for the use of City Spaces. Basel; Boston: Birkhäuser, 2006.

[8] Bishop, Peter. The temporary city. London; Routledge, 2012. [9] Haydn, Florian. Temporary urban spaces : concepts for the use of city spaces. Basel; Birkhäuser, 2006.

[10] Arkaraprasertkul, Non, and Matthew Williams. “The Death and Life of Shanghai’s Alleyway Houses: Re-thinking Community and Historic Preservation.” Review of Culture (2015): page 136-149. [11] Guan, Qian. “Lilong Housing: a Traditional Settlement Form: Chapter 2.” Master’s thesis, McGill University, 1996.

Image and Data Sources: [1] Page13, “Temporary Seatings on Time Square”, pin/223139356513060660/.

[2] Page14, “An Urban Village Chongqing” and “An Urban Village in Shenzen”, http://www. [3] Page14, “Hutong in Beijing”, http://www. [4] Page14, “Lilong in Shanghai”, http://

[6] Page23 and page27, “Location Diagram” and “Lilong Fragments in Yangpu District”, Baidu Map and Tianditu Map World.

[7] Page 24-25, “Internal Migration in China”, The Economists, [8] Page26, “Population Density in Shanghai”, WorldPopDen/#4/29.65/104.94.

[9] Page60-61, “Miller Gallery SoA Thesis Exhibition”, by Margaret Cox, Clearance CMU Architecture exhibition 2018 at Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University. [10] Page68-69, “MUD Thesis Final Review”, by Yidan Gong, MUD, CMU. [11] Page70-71, “MUD Thesis Final Review”, by Stefan Gruber, CMU.


[5] Page18, “Demolished Jiangjia Bang neighborhood, 2018”, by Haonan Yang, MLA, TJU.


Throughout the process of my thesis work and also throughout my time in the MUD program, many individuals have supported me. I would like to give a special thanks to Stefan Gruber, Jonathan Kline, Stephen Quick, Stefani Danes, Kristen Kurland and Donald Carter for teaching me not only how to be a better urban designer, but also how to be a better person.

Thank you to my family and friends for standing by my side, even though some of you are thousands of miles away from me.

And thank you, Pure, for not giving up and always staying true to yourself.