Alibaba Jiangnan Megalopolis: A Sustainable Dystopia

Small scale site

Alibaba is China’s equivalent of the Amazon, and Jiangnan is the traditional name of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD). For this project, Alibaba Jiangnan Megalopolis (AJM) is a fictional region I imagined in the year 2050 and is located in the YRD region. The project is inspired by the Shanghai lockdown at the beginning of 2022, which then spread throughout the country. Therefore, the project is not a pure architectural design for the future but an exploration that uses architecture as a medium to make a social critique of the contemporary world.

AJM is a place where the power structure of the Jiangnan region has shifted from a more traditional CCP government to a private giant corporation, the Alibaba Group. In AJM, the citizens are divided into 6 levels, and by completing their KPI, they are able to move up the levels, with higher levels having more privileges. The majority of the population is less than 40 years old to maintain the high rate of productivity, and citizens of levels 1-5 who are not physically up to standard will be expelled. AI manages the society with the assistance of humans, and every citizen must obey the optimal solution calculated by the AI.

Perspective 2
Alibaba Corporate Housing Buildings - Each building contains one Level 6 Housing and hundreds of Level 1-5 Housings.

The book One-Dimensional Man, by Herbert Marcuse, believes that an advanced industrial society can create an unfree but comfortable living environment, and all people's material demands will be satisfied through technology. Meanwhile, it also restricts people's personalities and cognitive abilities. In the end, people stop being critical, the material standards will be the only thing people care about. This book also introduces a theory called false needs, which means inducing or brainwashing the public through media and advertising to create a need which is neither real nor necessary. The book The Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord, shares a similar opinion. The rulers use media to create a spectacle to manipulate people's minds and let the people believe what they want people to believe.


This project is a deliberate 'overkill' of the Shanghai Lockdown, which I hope to use to exaggerate what has happened to us now as a social critique and as a warning to people. Today we live in a world where, as the Internet becomes more and more advanced, the spectacle that used to be created by mass media like newspapers, radio and television, with the addition of big data, has been upgraded to a personalised and customised spectacle. In 2050, even if the world does turn out to be such a sustainable dystopia as in this project, people may already be used to it.

Level 1-5 Housing - A 'doorless' modular house transfers into different forms automatically to match AI's schedule.
Level 6 Housing - The final form of an ergonomic office chair; it's too comfortable to stop working.
Alibaba Control Tower - The big brother is watching you; in cyberpunk style.
Alibaba Control Tower Observation Centre - The prison guards are also locked in the cage.
Underground Transportation Centre - An automatic warehouse for receiving and delivering shipments; sometimes deportation.
Underground Transportation Centre - Overall Perspective.
Visitor Resort - Layers and layers of beautiful false worlds to blind people to the real world.
Visitor Resort - Visitor Housing, the first layer.
Visitor Resort - Jiangnan Alley Perspective.