We are the Urban-Rural Systems (URS) Team under the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL). FCL was established by ETH-Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), and operates under the auspices of the Singapore-ETH Centre.


This research is focused on the complex patterns of settlement emerging in the hinterlands of many large cities in Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent and China. All cities have their hinterlands of one kind or another. This study is specifically interested in the hinterlands of cities surrounded by tropical, wet-rice agriculture.


It has this interest in part because many cities in Asia are surrounded by this kind of agriculture. More importantly, such hinterlands have very specific ecological, economic and demographic characteristics, which mean they interact with nearby urban centres in distinctive ways. Most notably, wet-rice agriculture supports relatively high population densities with fine-grained land-use patterns. When cities encroach upon such areas, the rural does not immediately give way to the urban and instead a hybrid rural-urban typology emerges. Sometimes dubbed desakota landscapes (Indonesian for ‘village’ and ‘city’), they are neither strictly urban nor rural in character, but a mixture of both.


The research will:

1) Research the spatial extent, rates of change, socio-economic character and ecological systems in Asian urban-rural regions

2) Model the demographic, economic and ecological interdependencies of such regions

3) Propose a range of urban design approaches, typological models, adaptable urban technologies suited to their character.