As we all know, China has the largest population in the world. And because of the development of economy, the demand of urban space is growing quickly. More and more people want to move to urban areas.
Figure1: China’s urbanization 1949-2013
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (2014)
The rapid urban population growth in a very short period of time and a fast booming economy in the east coast region which is rich in capital and human resources provide the background of the demand for urban space and the promotion of large scale urban design projects in China, the east coast cities in particular.
So in this blog, the writer will take Hangzhou city as an example to demonstrate current Chinese city’s urban design.
Before talking about Hangzhou city, there are some basic information about Chinese urban design we need to know. So there are three types of urban design projects could be identified in classifying contemporary urban design activities. Firstly, urban renewal projects in all Chinese cities. Those projects are usually supported by local government and aiming to attract investment. The second is developing New Town in large cities. Because of the limitation of city centre, the local government need to find a new area or new districts to release the force of over population. Another one is designing projects for “Big Evens” such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and the 2016 Group20 Summit in Hangzhou.
Figure2: Hangzhou’s Location in china
The picture up there shows the location of Hangzhou. Nearing the Pacific Ocean is one of the necessary condition to develop local economy.
Figure3: Master plan of Hangzhou (2001-2020)
Figure4: Master plan of transportation in Hangzhou
As we can find in master plans, the government try to build a well-connected transportation network in Hangzhou including highways, metro and railways aiming to connect countryside and downtown which provides basic condition to develop New Town. And according to the master plan, we can find that the economy centre is moved to countryside gradually rather than near the West Lake. Here is an example of New Town in Hangzhou.
Figure5: Newtown in Hangzhou: the QianJiang Newtown by Canadian designers
Figure6: The picture of Qianjiang New Town after the completion of the project.
Qianjiang New Town is aiming to provide a mixed use of land such as accommodation, business centre, education, public squares and government office. These New Town projects can give local people more job opportunities and thus people may move to there, in that case, the social resources can be used in a better way.
However, when we talk about New Town in China, we have to discuss the costs of urban renewal and challenges facing Chinese cities. Firstly, economic problems. The rapidly develop of tall-buildings can in some way change the appearance of the New Town. However, the need of buildings can’t catch the speed of growing buildings. Also the competition among neighbouring cities stimulate local governments to encourage more renew projects which contributes to over-building, a problem causing urban sprawl, under usage as well as wasting investment. In that case, some New Towns have been called “ghost towns” because of a large percent of the housing and business buildings there are empty. Another problem is environmental pollution. Urban sprawl and over building cause environment damage such as air pollution and water pollution. Also, the waste of construction materials can lead to the mess of social resources.
We still need to wait more time to see if these projects are wrong or right. Hopefully, the Chinese cities can become more beautiful and suitable for people to live. And every inch of land can make the most advantage of them.