Rural Revitalization of Gaohuai Village, Deyang

Gaohuai Village is located in Jingyang District, Deyang City, Sichuan Province. In 2014, it was a poor village. During the first rural revitalization, the coffee industry was introduced to promote the economic growth hence developing into a well-known “coffee village”. However, due to the serious homogeneity of the industrial business, Gaohuai Village fell into a development predicament and began to decline gradually.

This is a particularly challenging task because it is a non-typical rural revitalization project. He greater resistance and challenges would be expected in the second revitalization. First, the local investment and determination is no longer likely; secondly, it is difficult to build the trust of the villagers; thirdly, the original environment has been partially developed and damaged to a certain extent; Finally, the returning “new peasants” have failed to expect the village, and Gaohuai Village once again faced the crisis of brain drain.

After taking over this task of activating Gaohuai Village for the second time, based on ecological revitalization, we guide villagers to build together and utilize limited resources to achieve sustainable development. Meanwhile, we helped to create a diversified business to attract fund and people back to Gaohuai. Thus, the project not only effectively reverses the situation of the local village’s decline again and solves key problems in rural vitalization directly. It also provides a reference value for solving common problems and helps to truly realize rural revitalization.

Design Pondering

Rural revitalization is a grand proposition. The intervention of landscape architects is based on “ecology”, but the logic here should build from the actual behavior, for instance, how do the place attract tourists continuously? How can we keep the talents? How can we improve the lives of villagers and enhance economic vitality? How can we protect the ecological resource advantages of the countryside? Therefore, ecological advantages have become a means of prioritizing tourists, attracting outsiders, and focusing on increasing economic income.

However, rural revitalization is a major strategic task with linear development on the time axis. Its timeliness is not only reflected in the continuous recovery of vitality in the future, but also in the consideration of the time priority of revitalization and development objects. Here, when we took over this project, we started from the length of residence time among the objects in the rural area—consolidating the natural ecological foundation, improving the quality of life of the villagers, stabilizing the roots of new farmers, and resonating with the local ownership of tourists. Returning to the original intention, the revitalization design of Gaohuai Village is carried out in the order of “Ecology – Villagers – New Farmers – Tourists”.

Design Practice

Let Nature Do Its Work and Consolidate the Foundation of Local Ecology.

During the first rural revitalization of Gaohuai Village, the river and surrounding environment of the village were destroyed. The garbage pollution was too severe which has affected the farming of the villagers. At the same time, the earlier work aggravated the flood disaster of the site, and introduced alien species unreasonably, which led to the encroachment of the living space of native plants and the degradation of vegetation to varying degrees.

In view of the ecological status of Gaohuai Village, we try our best to restore the water system and plant system by natural means, enhance the self-regulation and self-repair functions of the village ecosystem, maintain the ecological balance, and improve the ecological resource advantages of the village in a further level.

-Restoring Water Ecosystems
In the early stage, we used gravity to work by sorting out the catchment path, and used natural methods such as ditches, ponds, and moors to divide floods, control waterlogging, store water, and purify the water system. Combined with vertical design. We built multi-level platforms to form a “water, pond, ditch, and back” ecological landscape water system. At the same time, the sewage treatment system is planned to meet the needs of multi-format sewage treatment in the later stage.

-Establishing Native Plant Systems

We analyze native plants and select plant varieties for landscape construction. An experimental field has been set up for cross-planting experiments. Through a period of natural growth and competition, we screen out the dominant native plant varieties and create the scientific theoretical data. In the plant design of Gaohuai Village, the reasonable use of local dominant varieties is used to ensure long-term landscape effects and reduce maintenance costs in the later period.

Advocating Villagers to Build Together and Realizing Landscape Construction at Low Cost

When the village was renovated for the first time, many “Internet celebrity” spots were built. With the decline of popularity, the “spots” were gradually abandoned, showing a state of dilapidation. Their long-term retention is not conducive to the production and life of the villagers, but it reminds the failure of the earlier township revitalization from time to time, and it also dampens the enthusiasm of the villagers for the rural revitalization and shakes the confidence of the villagers in the design team.

For this reason, we proposed the “village co-construction”. Starting from the actual needs of the villagers, with ecological construction as the fulcrum, and low-cost development as the goal, we realize the construction of rural landscapes that meet the needs of the villagers’ living and production.

We build village assembly squares to meet the needs of villagers for meetings and cultural and recreational activities. We organize important traffic routes to serve villagers to travel. At the same time, we repair the long-endangered river crossing suspension bridge, shorten the distance between the two banks, and restore the old village memories. In addition, we added a series of designs such as leisure pavilions, ecological restoration and reuse of abandoned structures, and addition of crop market trading points, all of which serve the production and life of the villagers.

Considering the growth needs of children in the village, we have diversified and interspersed color designs at multiple points to add colorful childhood fun.

When designing the landscape, we weakened the design traces, kept the original stones and logs in the village as much as possible, supported the normal living conditions of the villagers, and strengthened ecological guidance on important nodes. Grass, wood, rivers, fields, bridges, stones, fish, and insects all live. Our design aims to amplify the atmosphere of the rural landscape and strengthen people’s inner rural feelings. In the design and construction, we also draw more local materials. While supporting the ecological simplicity and reducing costs, we provide multiple basic posts to increase the employment of villagers and realize joint construction.

In addition, we innovatively introduced microbial waste decomposition technology to guide villagers and industry operators to independently use microbial fermentation to degrade household waste such as kitchen waste, reduce environmental pollution, process and transform to produce high-quality bacterial fertilizer for agricultural farming, improve soil, and form recycling of resources to increase villagers’ income.

Planning Landscape layout to help new farmers achieve value

According to the respective technical advantages of the new farmers, combined with the analysis of market demand and the characteristics of Gaohuai Village, we encourage the introduction of new formats such as tide fan production, folk song creation, and green plant dyeing based on the existing coffee format, so as to improve the cultural and creative agricultural atmosphere. We build an industrial model of “agriculture cultural tourism + public creation and pastoral gardens”, continue to build a diversified industrial ecosystem, supplement consumers’ needs for multi-faceted rural experience in Gaohuai, such as eating, living, traveling, and studying, and form mutual support for commercial value. With the goal of “creating, co-constructing, sharing, and win-win”, it will realize the transformation of the value of new farmers and comprehensively promote the economic and cultural development of Gaohuai Village.

In terms of landscape layout, according to the site needs of each emerging business, we strategically give way to the connected public area, and create a “frame view”-style rural landscape for the pictures that people can look out for like coffee houses. As for the format that favors handicraft or has outreach needs, we also leave more blank space for the public space when setting the scene for more functional use of the venue. The business venue and public space echo each other, so as to better and integrally facilitate the transformation of value.

The Scenery Undertakes the Nostalgia and Activates the Development of Rural Tourism

In the second revitalization and construction of Gaohuai Village, we have strengthened the unique ecological resources advantages of the local area. At the same time, we insist on serving the production and life of local villagers, and insist on balancing the needs of business sites and the creation of public space.

We will not forget our original intention, so that everyone can concentrate more on rural construction. It is closely linked to the core of “rural”, which is also the key point of rural tourism. In doing so, it will impress and attract tourists, promote the development of rural tourism, and increase economic income.

After four years, we have returned to Gaohuai village, which becomes very popular. The village leaders told us that Gaohuai village now attracts 500,000 tourists a year, and the tourism income exceeds 50 million yuan, and the per capita annual income reaches 26,500 yuan, which makes the villagers’ happiness index very high.

The enduring rural vitality of Gaohuai Village stems from its non-traditional, non-stereotype and non-orderly beauty. It presents more of the “flavor” and “sentiment”, which is full of the ideal environment that contains the Chinese people’s deep feelings for the country.

Words in the End

After the second revitalization, everything is a miracle in Gaohuai village. Month after month, year after year, listening to the birdsong and telling the passing of time, and smelling the breeze sent back to our thoughts. People live here and love here with peace of mind. Gaohuai Village, let the comers have something to gain, and let the residents have something to look forward to. This is a “future” full of hopes and dreams.

Architecture offices involved in the design: YN Architects

Project location:
Gaohuai Village, Deyang City, Sichuan Province, China

Design year: 2018

Year Built: 2021

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