Shanghai 28 October 2019
Zhangyan Harvests Future Country Living Festival
John Thackara curates Urban-Rural exhibition

Many people want to reconnect with nature and rural life – but cannot move out of the city for good. Zhangyan Harvests Festival in Shanghai, on 3 and 4 November, is filled with practical ways to reconnect the two worlds.

Highlight of the festival is an exhibition called Urban-Rural curated by the English writer and philosopher John Thackara.

Located in a beautiful high-tech agricultural dome, Urban-Rural features a dazzling array of real-world projects.

“We’re in a transition from the oil age to the soil age” says Thackara, “and the projects in Urban-Rural are leading the way”.

Urban-Rural includes apps that enable urban people be part-time farmers; streaming platforms that connect farmers directly to the city; and an algae lab that produces 3d cups out of bioplastics.

Other Urban-Rural talking points include a Soil Sensing Ceremony, and a plan for next-generation biofarms.

“China takes the health of small farms seriously” says Thackara. “We’ll show how, using the latest co-operation platforms, millions of Small farmers can co-exist with the Big on equal terms”.

China’s next-generation rural hubs will meet their opposite numbers from Europe in Urban-Rural.

Atelier Luma from France, and Casa Netural from Italy, will connect with Shanghai’s Biofarm, and Taobao (Alibaba) Rural Live-Streaming.

China’s Urban Rural Bridge is next to Pontio Innovation from Wales.

Thirty place-based learning hubs from around the world will also be profiled at Urban-Rural. These include a School for Village Hosts; forest schools; and a mobile beer academy.

The Urban-Rural exhibition takes place in this high-tech agricultural dome near the village of Zhangyan.

Zhangyan Harvests is the brainchild of professor Lou Yongqi, head of design and innovation at China’s prestigious Tongji University.

“We’ve been innovating new links between city and rural for ten years now” Yongqi explains., ”but Zhangyang Harvests takes this work up to a new level”.

“We’re thinking biovillage as well as smart village” Thackara explains. “Urban-Rural includes apps to monitor soil health remotely, and ecological restoration that’s enabled by digital and Artificial Intelligence. Our star Internet of Things exhibit lives in a compost heap”.

International guests, who are also speaking at the inaugural Zhangyan Forum on 3 and 4 November, include Andrea Paoletti from Casa Netural in Italy; Maxim Dedushkov founder of Holis, and CEO of the new rural hub Clara, in Portugal; and Andrew Goodman, founder of Pontio Innovation in Wales.

“Old wisdom appears alongside new technology on equal terms in Urban-Rural” says Thackara, “maybe more”.

Liying Huang
email: huangliying1218 [@] hotmail [dot] com
phone: 3 86 18202163016
Kristi van Riet
email: meeting [@] thackara [dot] com

[John Thackara is a writer, advisor and bioregional designer. He curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference for 20 years – first in Amsterdam, later across India – and was commissioner of the UK social innovation biennial Dott 07 and the French design biennial City Eco Lab. Since 2011, Thackara has curated place-based xskool workshops in 20 countries on the theme: Pathways to sustainability: Urban-Rural Reconnection. He studied philosophy before working for ten years as a book publisher and magazine editor. He was the first director (1993 —99) of the Netherlands Design Institute. Today, he is a senior fellow at the Royal College of Art; adjunct professor at Tongji University in Shanghai; visiting professor at School of Visual Arts in New York, and at Pontio Innovation in Wales; and curator of the Social Food Forum. His most recent book – How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today – has just been published in China]