Digital Communities

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

Digua Community (Sweet Potato Community) 地瓜社区

Digua Community is an experimental social design project transforming unused air raid shelter basement spaces into shared community spaces. The vision of Digua Community is to create a new urban culture of sharing in Beijing that extends from trust in one’s own community. While the project started off as Shu Zhou’s master’s thesis at the University of Arts London, Digua Community is now being operated in collaboration with the local subdistrict office, civil defense office, and neighborhood committee. To bring together local neighborhood residents including migrant workers, young entrepreneurs, and university students, Digua Community is designing opportunities for everybody to be a “prosumer” (a producer- consumer) within the basement space. It is our hope to provide opportunities for all neighborhood residents who do not usually have opportunities for interaction to come together and create meaningful connections. We believe that the reimagined basement as a third space for socializing, learning, and sharing can not only offer an improved lifestyle for all Beijing residents, but can also redefine social relations in Beijing.

We built the first Digua Community, which is around 500 square meters, in 2015 and we got about 15,000 resident visitors in the first year. We built the second one in late 2017, which is 1,500 square meters, and in 2018 we will build the third.

In Beijing, since 1986, with the rapid development of urbanization, a unique type of underground living space for migrants has emerged—in the basements of residential buildings formally used as air raid shelters. According to statistics, an estimated one million migrant workers were living in the air raid shelter basements in Beijing before 2014, most of whom were working in the local service industry. Unfortunately, the living conditions are incredibly poor and the workers also face eviction.

This project addresses these conflicts by carrying out a social design strategy. This social experimental project chose an air raid shelter basement in the Wangjing community of Beijing as the research object. After extensive research we designed a new business model for this specific basement, and also set up several urban interventions as tests in that basement. We are attempting to redefine the air raid shelter basement so that it can re-empower the new generation of migrant workers and the related stakeholders with their new roles, through a sustainable development strategy to gain ‘spatial justice’ and to build social capital in Beijing as well.

WeChat ID: DiguaCommunity


Digua Community

Digua Community started off as Shu Zhou’s master’s thesis project at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, 2012-2014. This is a complex project that involved various disciplines working together, from politics to economics, from sociology to architecture, from the architectural review to urban planning, from communication design to interior design, from documentary photography to WeChat release of self-media; all of them ultimately telling the public a story about the changes which are taking place in former air raid shelter basements in Beijing. We come from Stanford University, Delft University of Technology, Beihang University, Brown University, Central Academy of Fine Arts and have a lot of volunteers.