Neighbourhood design in urban communities is closely linked to the everyday life. It can also affect our lifestyle and habits. A well-designed community can improve the quality of daily activities, and enhance Interpersonal communications to create a healthy and vibrant neighbourhood atmosphere.
In the context of the accelerating urbanisation in China, the need for urban housing is higher than the past, and the city’s problems are more prominent. The formation of communities has important and practical significance.
However, under the guidance of modernist urban planning, Chinese urban construction has gradually moved farther toward a seemingly grand but unsustainable direction. Super tall buildings, large blocks, wider roads, supermarkets replaced small shops, closed neighbourhood with fenced walls, traffic jams under motor dominate… The profound changes like these in our city. Under the influence of these factors, neighbourhoods in contemporary China gradually loses its vitality, and people become more indifferent to each other. People less to feel the affiliation and identity in such urban space.
The Chinese Communist Party released a directive about how to further strengthen urban planning and development management to explore the further developing direction for Chinese cities.
In addition to the defects that gradually emerged in the development of modern Chinese cities, some metropolis in other countries also facing the challenge in the past century – the city will alive or dead. Many scholars have criticised and reflected on this.
The design concept should start from the feelings of the people, concerned about the spiritual needs of people, rather than the design just looking good and fancy. This is in line with the architectural approach – applicable, economical, green and beautiful – which pointed out in the directive.
In response to the issue, gradually open the walls of residential quarters, forming a new atmosphere of opening community. Li pointed out the core function of cities is for living and fulfilling requirements of citizens. A walking friendly neighbourhood is the most important characteristic of a good urban environment.
After discarding the fence and opening community, the public space will form communication space, including the commercial facilities, instead of serving the neighbourhood itself for its residential owners.
Moreover, the open community involves more than mere traffic problems, but a series of issues such as the remoulding of the urban environment, the redistribution of the usage rights, the travelling flow in urban life, and the construction between landscape and traffic design. It’s also an important adjustment at sociology level.
Dr Yang said to the journalist from BBC Chinese: “the policy change demonstrates that the Chinese urbanisation process is transforming from quantity focused developments to a quality oriented model”. “The Policy has started to bring fresh concepts and new approaches to the sustainable development of the country”.
Chris Lowsley said China had to look carefully at how it planned its new cities because of the enormous growth of its urban population.
People are the core of a city and they are the user of business and social activities. The convenient open space for pedestrians, including urban planning for residential areas, roads and parks, is the most scientific designs. Especially in cities with a large population, more consideration should be given to use limited space rationally and to design streets and blocks in a pedestrian-friendly way. People easily go out for work, shopping, and other actives, in order to promote social communication and harmony.
In fact, these developing processes in the city redesign are similar. In the 1960s, the British Ministry of Transportation published a research report led by Sir Buchanan, a planning and design expert, influencing the thinking of the international urban design in Britain and many European and American countries in that coming decades. The United Kingdom is in the process of urbanization and the rapid recovery of mobility after World War II. The report suggests that future urban residents will have a large number of private cars. Although this report forward-looking proposed road grading, environmental noise pollution and other issues. Later, however, some planning and design, especially highway planning, excerpted from the report and put vehicles in the core considerations of design. Although wider roads were created, it was unavoidable that the congestion and pollution in those cities.
Gradually, British planners recognized that cars dominate systems neglect the human factors which brought congestion, pollution and lack of urban vitality, while crime rates in some places also went up. Therefore, they changed their minds and planned to leave the convenience to pedestrians rather than drivers.
In neighbourhood design, whether the residential, traffic, green space, or commercial design, should consider the convenience for pedestrians. For example, from the behavioural science, a typical pedestrian walk is 4 meters for 5 minutes. It should be a reference standard for sustainable urban planning. If the journey to the stores, parks, or metro stations will take a long way walk, people prefer driving rather than walking.
Furthermore, a pedestrian-friendly community is more accessible to an ageing-friendly neighbourhood, to considering the ageing society. In the past, green spaces were the last thing to plan, occupy the remaining space after houses built. Those public spaces were lack of using and communications of residents. In addition, residential development should also tend to avoid the social stratification. More fenced areas of high-grade residential, the more Insurmountable to relieve the social psychological pressure
The United Kingdom has experience in this respect as well. For example, it stipulates that different types of units should be integrated into a regional building and that a certain proportion of the houses should be dedicated to relatively low-income social groups such as teachers, nurses, police officers and social service workers. It is easily integrated and conducive to social harmony.
From the science of architectural space, it needs a natural exchange between human and space, such as a sense of confinement. An empty space makes people feel insecure and inconvenient to stop or communicate. A wide motor road is difficult to sight communication between drivers and pedestrians. In pedestrian and vehicles combined streets, low-speed driving and sight communication are conducive to the safety.
An overview of the directive, which addresses the problems caused by the rapid urban growth and city expansion since the 1990s, such as land waste, inadequate public infrastructure, pollution and congestion.
The vision for “open neighbourhoods” seems to humanely heal indifference and alienation in the public spaces of megacities. It is easily reminiscent of the design principles raised by new urbanism in 1980s America that advocated a mix of land functions, community-oriented design with public transport and non-motorized transport, compact the development of borders emphasizes the construction of neighbourhoods public spaces in communities and the restoration of the atmosphere of traditional communities stimulate renewed the vitality of urban spaces. Ultimately to achieve Jane Jacobs’ Sidewalk Ballet or Kevin Lynch’s Dimensions of City Performance.
BBC News (2013). Milton Keynes template for two new Chinese cities. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-22594623 [Accessed 31 Dec. 2017] Jane Jacobs (1961). The Death and Life of American Cities [online], New York: A Division of Random House. Available at: https://www.buurtwijs.nl/sites/default/files/buurtwijs/bestanden/jane_jacobs_the_death_and_life_of_great_american.pdf Kevin Lynch (1984). Good City Form. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Wei Yang & parteners.co (2016). Dr Wei Yang applauds Chinese latest urban planning policy change [online] Deliver Integrated Master Plans. Available at: http://weiyangandpartners.co.uk/wypnews/dr-wei-yang-applauds-chinese-latest-urban-planning-policy-change/ [Accessed 31 Dec. 2017]