2012 [Rih] Chengdu Smart city incubator: rice industry hub


Once upon a time we all met in Berlin to do a Project in…China!

The 5th Ring as low carbon urban incubator

The 5th Ring of Chengdu – one of the oldest and currently fastest growing cities in China. The pace of expansion put urban designers and planers to a difficult situation. How to design and plan on such an urban scale and how to meet the contemporary demands for sustainable and energy efficient urban form?

Our studio tried to answer these questions by developing smart prototypes within 5th Ring of Chengdu . These prototypes together created a Low carbon Incubator- a vision for sustainable future.

Urban Gallery – a methodology for urban planning and dynamic management of complex systems was used to help us to manage and design our complex visions.


+First stage- Utopia . Pick one , analyze, separate main components, create toolbox, using your toolbox create Utopia for Chengdu.

+Second Stage- Pick existing system or process. Ours was rice route from seed to table.

+Third Stage- Development adding other processes to the system and theoretical application on site.

+Preparation for a trip to Chengdu.

+Picking the site- throwing beans!


One bean -one place to visit


Well prepared and packed we flew half world to China where met our new team members architecture students from South Jiatong University. We spent two weeks developing our prototypes during study trips and workshops.

The map below shows bean footprints which were places we have to visit and take a snapshot of area view. Later we analyzed those 15 photographs by 4 factors: erasure, origination, transformation and migration. This allowed us know certain problems and tendencies in the area.


Our site in the south of Chengdu



After site visit we spent one day finding institutions and people who might be related to our prototypes. We visited agriculture department and managed to talk to agricultural waste expert who showed us beautiful materials made using rice husks and straws. Although general mood about wider marketing of such materials did not seem positive as transportation cost to collect these materials is very high and export is dramatically increasing so agricultural land will be decreasing gradually. While we were sitting and chatting in the big highriser building in Incubation park surrounded by many constructions sites the man told us to look through the window. We saw Chengdu landscape sunken in smog and he explained that this fog is due to burns of agricultural waste.

Another our interview was with Jiakun architects who showed us their rebirth brick proposal presented in Venice biennale. These bricks made of rubble left after the earthquake and rice straws have much better thermal performance could be made on site and are cheap. Also their advice was to look at traditional Chinese architecture which was extremely clever. Although,  talking about wider marketing was difficult.

Picture 148

Floor decking component made of rice husks and plastic composite


Jiakun architects rebirth bricks

Picture 505

Luyeyuan Stone Sculpture Art Museum by Jiakun architects

Scenario Game

After the research, interviews and site visits we came to the final goal of our trip which was  Scenario game  held in one of the gallery in Music park.

SG is played as a sequence of events that might occur in a certain urban condition.

In the scenario game, simulation and testing of possible realities and interactions between the phenomenon of each mini scenarios, which is picked up from the beans, placed by a bean-throwing game, on the fifth ring of Chengdu’s map.

Scenario game is played with four players and a navigator, consisted of TUB students, SWJTU students, local architects and planners. In the game, one player is in charge of one action from Erasure, Origination, Transformation and Migration, according to which, each player initiate a process in space based on the MS, OF, and PT assigned by the navigator in a sequential order.
The scenarios played describes a hypothetical development of events in order to test and develop design ideas, prototypes and define what potential projects might be. It gives an idea what are the problems and potentials of certain environment.


After all challenges ,tired and inspired we came back to Berlin to finalize our projects.

..Oh yes, almost forgot one more exciting thing we did! We visited Chengdu planning institute to get to know about city future plans which were displayed perfectly in 3D movie and loads of massive scale models. I was impressed and a bit terrified…

Picture 062


Prototype “ Rice Industry Hub” is a device for connecting multiple components into systems together and making them act as a single network segment.It is an organizational system for balancing urban and agricultural land. An increasing problem in Chengdu is a significant contrast of agricultural and urban areas. In addition to this, agricultural area became uncontrollable space which is more and more often occupied by industrial and residential buildings. It leaves no space for traditional idea of being in harmony with nature in living environment.

After research it appeared that agricultural land in 5th ring is mostly occupied by rice paddies. Rice straw waste could be recycled in a different ways to get eco products. You can get food, building materials and energy. Prototype “ Rice Industry Hub” increases profit of agricultural land makes it enjoyable as well as controllable. Also disappearance of the farmland will have an impact to the future food production as the population is growing there will be more import which means more co2 emission and increased food prices.

Our prototype tried to deal with this problem by making agricultural land profitable, usable and enjoyable. After research it appeared that agricultural land in 5th ring is mostly occupied by rice paddies.This means that adding additional processes into rice growing process it is possible to get eco products,like building materials and rice husk energy.
The idea of the project is inspired by emergence urbanism concept  which uses fractal geometry to create principles of chaotic environment. Our created system works with 5 components placed in areas around urbanized zone creating centers, which can attract more investors interested in similar business.
Although, the agricultural land is shrinking and the future  of it is vertical farms. However,its energy consumption is not efficient way of supplying community with food. Our main goal is to keep agriculture as  part of urban life. Although we were thinking and investigating structure made of local materials which could accommodate agricultural land reducing its footprint.


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