Ulrike Bronner + Clarissa Reikersdorfer (2011)


Urban Nomads.

Building Shanghai: Migrant Workers and the Construction Process

Background   This thesis takes a close look at the interrelated phenomena of international business migrants and rural migrant workers in Shanghai, China.
Abstract   Through separate case studies of each group’s role in the construction process in this rapidly developing world city, we observe them in parallel and shed light on the spatial implications of both groups’ migrant status. In doing so, we determine that both groups live in “cocoon worlds”, albeit in different ways. We recognize that both groups live in a state of permanent temporariness in Shanghai, and, drawing on work by Lefebvre (1974) and others, we assert their temporary “right to the city” and thus call them “Urban Nomads”.

Our uncovering of the stark inequalities and harshly inadequate living and working conditions affecting rural migrant workers in the construction industry in Shanghai leads to our development of a concept of “Fair Building”, a socially conscious architecture that calls for accountability in ensuring that rural migrant workers’ needs are taken into account so that their living and working circumstances can improve. Finally, we present our contribution, “Lüxing Laoshi”, which represents our small part in intervening in the unsustainable and unjust reality of construction work in Shanghai.

Submitted   at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning on 27th of November 2011
Supervision   DI (FH) Dr. phil. Sabine Knierbein
Awards   Social Impact Award 2011 (Link) ArchDiploma 2013 (Link)