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The Development of a Conceptual Framework for Delivering Socially Beneficial Urban Squares in Guangzhou, China

LI, DAWEI (2015) The Development of a Conceptual Framework for Delivering Socially Beneficial Urban Squares in Guangzhou, China. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract Since the 1990s, in the context of recent rapid urbanisation, China has experienced an intense period of creating urban squares by new-build and regeneration. Much of this has been widely influenced by interpretations of Western urban morphology (Cao, 2005; Zhang 2006; Chen and Thwaites, 2013). Today, the contemporary urban square has become an essential urban form in the city layouts of Chinese cities, built primarily to display a city’s features, promote a city’s cultures, and enhance urban recreation life in China, mirroring perceptions of how such urban settings function in the West. However, the real usage patterns of urban squares in China appear to have limited and imbalanced usage by the public which appears to be in contrast to the well-used western urban squares that China has sought to imitate. This is beginning to attract the attention of the built environment professional fraternity who are seeking to develop better awareness of urban square usage patterns in Chinese cities and understand the planning and design implications. Based on the review of relevant literature and the researcher’s practical experiences, the emergence of this issue could be influenced by the following: - In today’s China, there is no national, regional or local level design guidance or policy in existence to provide the practitioners with any industrial standards to follow in the delivery of user-friendly urban squares in the Chinese context. - Under this circumstance, therefore, the urban squares in China are normally delivered by practitioners who often look to Western influences placing emphasis on visual appearance rather than social functioning. Planning and design decision making processes are therefore heavily biased towards practitioners’ own intuitions and preferences, rather than a deep understanding of, and then a response to, the users’ needs and preferences in the Chinese context. In response, this research will contribute towards solving this issue by developing a conceptual framework for delivering socially beneficial urban squares for today’s China. Here, Guangzhou is selected as the study city for two main reasons. Firstly, Guangzhou is a representative city of China, clearly reflecting the issue discussed above; and secondly, its advanced experiences and lessons could be referred to by the other Chinese cities, due to its significant influence within China. The aim illustrated above is achieved by addressing four research objectives. These are: firstly, to investigate the lessons and experiences that can be learnt from the Western context with regards to delivering socially beneficial urban squares for China, taking the city of Guangzhou as a study site; secondly, to uncover the users’ usage features, desires, and suggestions on the recreation squares in Guangzhou; thirdly, to discover the concept and criteria of socially beneficial recreation squares that are suited to today’s Guangzhou; and finally, to synthesise the outcomes of the previous three steps into a conceptual framework that can offer urban squares the ability to sustain and nourish public urban social life, in Guangzhou. Finally, this research makes four main contributions to the fields of urban square and urban design including theoretical development and practical application. The first contribution is that it uncovers the evolving pattern of traditional Chinese squares, which can fill the gap that exists within the literature review of Chinese squares. The second contribution is that it reveals and illustrates the concept and criteria of socially beneficial urban squares in the Western context, which can enrich the West’s documentary material of urban squares. The third contribution is that it develops two innovative research tools for the fieldwork in China, which contributes towards the development of built environment research methodology. The fourth contribution is that it produces a conceptual framework, which can be used not only in Guangzhou to assist the practitioners to deliver socially beneficial urban squares in practice, but also offers potential for application in other Chinese cities. This implies its significance and contribution to the theoretical and practical developments of Chinese urban squares. Keywords: conceptual framework, socially beneficial recreation squares, Guangzhou

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Landscape (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.677339
Depositing User: Dr DAWEI LI
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 16:50
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11549

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