The Shengsi Islands found in the East China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) face various development pressures. Nevertheless, they have secured their importance historically by supporting a highly productive fishing industry, serving national port infrastructure and being a destination for millions of tourists every year.  Their role in the future, however, is less certain.  Climactic, environmental, and anthropogenic changes to the area are combining to place significant pressure on the resource base of the islands.  Any future planning, sustainable development strategies or outside investment must recognize that the continued success of the islands will require a robust ecosystem.  Augmenting, monitoring, and establishing new habitats in a range of ecotypes to support the biodiversity of endogenous and endemic species must be a priority.

The success of the Shengsi Islands as a shipping port is largely due to their siting and the standardized and efficient methods of the modern shipping industry, which makes use of a modular intermodal container.  We quickly pass over this seemingly obvious statement, but perhaps there are lessons here to be learned.  Millions of containers move globally between different modes of transportation and infrastructural systems but share one of two standardized dimensions.  However, their modularity is also adaptable enough to contain a vast assortment of products and goods.  Could a similar “eco” system be imagined whereby the investment and movement of global capital is made legible on the landscape and structures growth of a diverse, abundant, resilient, adaptable and productive ecological community?

This design provocation seeks to answer what it would be like to occupy such an “eco” system layered over a preexisting scaled grid.  In so doing, the system is better able to adapt in three distinct ways.  First, it delivers a platform for renewable infrastructure expansion, resting among shipping and navigation routes.  Second, it provides a foundation for local ecosystem restoration, protecting habitat from damaging storm surges and mitigating ecological loss due to rising water levels.  Finally, it adapts to a fluctuating market and seasonal interest by expanding and shrinking, adding and subtracting units, ultimately providing a high level of resiliency.

with Kyle Xuekun Yang
Shengsi Islands: Renewing China’s Traditional Village Lifestyle, 2012 Architects in Missions (AIM) Awards, Beijing, China
Peer reviewed finalist, competition winner