Tag Archives: architecture

China’s emerging eco-cities

Zhongjie Lin (2014), Constructing Utopias: China’s Emerging Eco-cities, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina. ARCC Conference Repository, 2014 .

Each year about 16 millions of China’s rural residents – equivalent to the total population of the Netherlands – are moving into cities. This trend has continued for nearly two decades in this “largest mass migration ever seen in human history” (David Harvey). Amid such dramatic demographic shift and the resulting construction boom are ambitious plans throughout China to create new towns to house swelling population and to sustain economic growth. A series of prototype eco-new towns have been proposed in this wave of mass urbanization. They are often conceived as exemplary piece of urbanism showcasing the latest design and environmental technologies in town building, and represent a new chapter in China’s continuing effort of organized urbanization as a strategy to address complex economic and environmental issues.

This paper studies three eco-new town projects, including Dongdan Eco-city, Binhai Eco-city, and Qingdao Eco-block. They were intended as “models” to showcase the best practice in planning and development and to provide duplicable experience for other cities in the country. The paper examines these eco-new towns through the lens of urbanism and utopianism, focusing on the relationship between place making and social development. These projects were either initiated by the governments or created by private organizations or joint ventures, demonstrating different strategies of developing eco-city and representing different political and economic agendas. However, they were all encountered some dilemmas due to the current land policies and prevalent patterns of urban development in China, which indicates more fundamental issues to tackle to move toward a sustainable society. Studying China’s emerging eco-city movement from design and policy perspectives, this paper contribute to the understanding of new patterns of urban growth in our globalized era, and shed a new light on the strategies of dealing with the current environmental crises.

 Full text of the paper

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Shanghai by Françoise Ged


Ged, F. (2014). Shanghai. L’ordinaire et l’extraordinaire (Shanghai. The ordinary and the extraordinary). Paris: Buchet-Chastel.1

Shanghai is the mythical city par excellence. Able to renew itself cyclically, to continually rebuild, we could believe it locked in an absolute present, removed from its history, recent or ancient, without memory.

But what is true of the early 2000s is not necessarily so today. A leading city, a “laboratory” city, Shanghai has undergone some major upheavals. With large-scale constructions finished, the city turns to other sites and reclaims its history as it reclaims its territory. Society is primarily involved in these new adventures, which herald the face of China in years to come. Throughout this journey from the 1980s to the present day, Françoise Ged guides us through this city where the ordinary and the extraordinary exist side by side. Yang Hui Bahai’s photographs punctuate her narrative like guiding lights, signs of a disappearing era, to be replaced by a time not yet realised.2

Next week will have a post with more information on the Chinese photographer Bahai.

  1. Françoise Ged is in charge of the Observatoire de l’architecture de la Chine contemporaine at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. []
  2. Translated from the back cover of this book. []

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Shanghai street stories = 上海街头故事

Shanghai street stories = 上海街头故事. Retrieved 24 June, 2014,  from http://shanghaistreetstories.com/

The pace of urban development in Shanghai is as swift as it is unrelenting and its impact is far-reaching in both the positive and negative.

I photograph and collect stories in Shanghai, seeking to capture the lives of ordinary Shanghainese and 外地人 or “waidiren” in the city, as well as the process behind the city’s rapid urbanisation.

My work is a mix of photojournalism and street photography. The former allows me to cover a wider gamut of topics such as old architecture, individual stories, lifestyle, while the latter is indicative of a style of photography I sometimes prefer. 

For interviews I have given about photography, blogging and Shanghai in general can be found on the Published Work page.

To learn more about how the website is set up and the plugins that run the blog, read “The Anatomy of My Blog: An Amateur’s Tale (and Tips!)“.

Read the blog : http://shanghaistreetstories.com/

More information about the author and the blog itself


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Jiaju, a remote Tibetan village confronted with tourism

This picture was taken at the entrance of the Tibetan village Jiaju, located near Danba in the mountainous region of western Sichuan. A seeing spot has been set up with a glass railing so that visitors could admire, safely, the amazing view of the Tibetan village from above. The woman in the picture, dressed in a traditional Jiarong style, came two minutes after I, and three other Chinese visitors in their SUV, arrived. She gave a tight smile and started to pose, to the joy of some, and the unease of others…

Why all this orchestration in this remote and peaceful village?

In 2005, Jiaju was selected as the most beautiful village in China by the Chinese National Geographic Magazine.

A journalist wrote:

The village of Jiaju has no doubt benefited as a result of tourism – there are few signs of poverty and many villagers own new cars and sports utility vehicles. But tourism has also impacted the surrounding environment and changed the fabric of the village. Indeed, Jiaju embodies many of the issues China’s minority regions face as the country’s internal tourism industry grows.

He Ming, the director of Yunnan University’s Research Centre of Ethnic Minorities in China’s South-west Frontier, says increased tourism helps foster development of minority regions and increases local incomes. For Han tourists, the experience of visiting minority regions provides a valuable cultural exchange that promotes goodwill between China’s different ethnic groups.

But He says that governments at the federal and local level must take steps to protect the rights and interests of the minority cultures, rather than exploiting them to accommodate Han tourists.(( Mitch Moxley, Inter Press Service, 2010 ))

Thus, the local government’s choices will shape Jiaju’s future. However, it will also depend on the ability of the communities to make their own choices: to develop the image of the “most beautiful village of China” and spread it over the world, or to keep a slice of authenticity by preserving their local identity, practices and architecture from mass tourism and exploitation. Furthermore, if they decide to preserve the authenticity of this place, the next step is to define a way to proceed. Should the UNESCO intervene and impose its Western rules in terms of heritage conservation? Or should the local government create an new system, which combines some Western practices in terms of heritage conservation with new Chinese ones?



Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Construction of Chongqing Industrial Museum, Dadukou district

The old industrial district of Dadukou, located in the south of Chongqing, is being revitalised after the Chongqing Iron and Steel Company Limited, Chong Gang, moved out 65km away from the inner-city in 2006. The project of urban renewal will preserve the site’s history with the construction of the Chongqing Industrial Museum, and will establish spaces for new creative industries and develop urban systems and services. The Chongqing Industrial Museum Company is in charge of the project with international architects and designers partners. For this occasion, the Statue of Chaiman Mao will be moved inside the museum.

A worker on the scaffolding prepares to move a statue of Chaiman Mao in Chongqing while two men are watching as cranes move the statue covered in red . This is the first time that the city moved a Mao Statue. The cement-made statue was built by a factory in the city in 1968 during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976). It was abandoned when the factory moved in July 2012. The site around the statue is being rebuilt into a storage yard of a logistic company. The statue will be moved to the newly built Museum of Chongqing Industry, which showcases the city’s industrial history and achievements.[Photo/icpress.cn]

Chongqing moves Chairman Mao statue

Source: ChinaDaily

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Redeveloping Shanghai with urban ruins

Ren, X. (2014), The Political Economy of Urban Ruins: Redeveloping Shanghai. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38: 1081–1091. doi: 10.1111/1468-2427.12119


This essay analyzes the political economy of the urban ruins captured in Greg Girard’s photo album Phantom Shanghai. Rather than being marginal, irrelevant or merely objects for nostalgia, the ruins of buildings produced by real estate speculation offer crucial insights into the workings of the urban political economy and reflect wider trends of urban governance. Examining how building ruins come about in the first place and how they are represented in visual media can help us better understand the processes of urbanization and place making, and the central role of destruction in contemporary Chinese urbanism. This essay illustrates this point by analyzing the economic function, political legitimation and cultural significance of demolitions and ruins in urban China.

Full article available in the International Journal of Urban Research. (pdf)

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Villa Basset: French Consul’s residence in Shanghai

Couverture ShanghaiMarie-Claire Bergère , Françoise Ged, Danielle Elisseeff and Jérémy Cheval (2013). La Villa Basset : Résidence du consul général de France à Shanghai. Paris: Editions Internationales du Patrimoine.Collection / Série : Résidences de France ; 11. . Translators: Ju Wang et Xiaoli Wei. Photography: Jonathan Leijonhufvud.

From the mid-19th century to just after the Second World War, the responsibilities of the French Consul in Shanghai were twofold. On one hand, he must protect French interests in the face of senior officials of the local Chinese authorities and the agents of major foreign powers represented in Shanghai. On the other hand, he must oversee the management of the French Concession and ensure compliance, security, public order, urban planning regulation, education and health in this semi-colonial enclave. The consular residence with its vast administrative annexes was the principal power centre of this flourishing cosmopolitan metropolis for a century1.

The villa Basset is returning to the limelight. Listed as a historical building of Shanghai since 1994, it has also been registered since 2003 in the largest of the 12 protected areas of the city, an innovative municipal measure in China at the time. With this classification, as with the rest of Shanghai, the stories of the people who lived in this residence are coming out of the shadows too2.

Built in 1921 by French architects from the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (Far East mortgage bank) by order of Lucien Basset, the consular villa combines Asian and European influences. Its hybrid architecture elegantly combines neoclassical columns, Flemish roofing, Italian balconies, capitals and mosaics and Chinese landscaped and rock gardens. This “Mediterranean” or “Italian style” house, whose story keeps the print of its successive occupants, remains a historical witness of the distinctive architecture of the old French Concession3.

The visitor enters this beautiful residence through the north side, as ordinary citizens and suppliers from the Forbidden City did during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911); but here, the vegetation surrounding the porch allows us to imagine what lies beyond, south of the house. We can easily guess that this visit, as with all beautiful villas built in Shanghai by Europeans during the Republic, will end in the garden, living jewel of the property4.

For more information.

  1. p. 17, text by Marie-Claire Bergère. []
  2. p. 59, text by Françoise Ged. []
  3. p.105, text by Jérémy Cheval. []
  4. p. 127, text by Danielle Elisseeff. []

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Socialist and post-socialist urbanizations: architecture, land and property rights


May 8-11, 2014


Tallinn, Estonia


Call for papers

Although most European cities both in the ‘East’ and in the ‘West’ grew rapidly in the post-war decades, the important questions regarding the difference between urbanization under the two conflicting political regimes has never been deeply analysed and resolved in the urban studies. Thus, the post-1989 success and current renaissance of the notion of ‘post-socialism’ seems surprising. At the same time, however, the number of critical voices has been growing. Still, can we seriously talk about post-socialism, lacking not only a fully developed definition and understanding of ‘post-socialist city’ but also what ‘the socialist city’ is?

The missing or poor definition of ‘socialism’ is one of the key weaknesses of the concept of post-socialism. Socialism comes into the question of post-socialism in different ways: What are the ‘socialist’ origins of ‘post-socialist’ practices? What importance did the imagined return to ‘pre-socialist’ capitalism play in building the ‘post-socialist’ capitalism? Is negation of socialism (the ‘anti-socialism’) an important aspect of post-socialism? Whereas socialism could be seen both as a political idea and as an actual historical experience, post-socialism appears to be a societal condition only that is, furthermore, primarily restricted to a region of former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The existence of different socialisms—such as Soviet, Czechoslovakian, Yugoslavian, Chinese and Vietnamese— however, problematizes the regional bias of the term post-socialism. Would it be possible to talk about the common ‘post-socialist’ experience facing such different historical and geographical contexts? Would China be comprehensible as post-socialist similarly as Hungary or Estonia? Does it need downplaying historical and cultural particularities of China (but of course other contexts as well) that unquestionably are present? Would property regimes or ‘urban villages’ in China be comprehensible from the perspective of Eastern Europe?

In this context, we wish to initiate a fresh debate regarding the future of (the concepts of) socialism and post-socialism through engagements with different geographical contexts such as Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. We would like to engage ‘post-socialism’ with ongoing debates of comparative urbanism but also seek ways to re-develop and conceptualise ‘socialism’ and ‘post-socialism’ themselves.

The conference aims to explore histories and geographies of socialism and post-socialism in relation to three themes: 1) architecture and urban planning, 2) land use and landscape, and 3) property rights.

Please send your abstract (300 words) and short bio (60 words) by Dec 2, 2013 to uld@artun.ee.

The conference is organized by the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts. It is the eleventh installment of the now-traditional Urban and Landscape Days.

Please visit www.artun.ee/uld for further information or contact us at uld@artun.ee.

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Conference on contemporary architecture in China

Tianshushan-tea house 08

Conference on contemporary architecture in China, October 17, 2013

Marlène Leroux and Françis Jacquier will give a conference on urban and architectural practices in contemporary China.

In order to question the meaning of Chinese modernity, Marlène Leroux will discuss the changes in which the architectural and urban production are currently involved.

This conference, organised by “Espace Campus France de Shanghai” will be held in Shanghai.

The conference language is French.

Conference details

C3 Café 黄陂南路 700 号a 栋 105

700 Huangdi south road, Suite A105

October 17, 2013, 7 pm


Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Cities in Asia: International summer program in architecture

Taught by a diverse group of faculty members from the University of Hong Kong, and speakers from internationally renowned universities and independent research groups, the course offers participants a design studio experience within Asia’s  contexts.

Fundamental to the study of architecture and cities is the question of rapid urbanization and innovation on the multiple fronts of society, culture and the economy. For the purpose of this summer program, the three key cities in east China, the Pearl River Delta and Southeast Asia will serve as platforms for the understanding of such issues, in the current neo-liberal world of urbanization, where international corporations have grown far more powerful than sovereign governments.

Through this course, participants will focus on different architecture and building types that have emerged from the current state of rapid urbanization. These urban building types are unique in the way they resist and subvert, or become mutated or subsumed by the prevailing urban conditions of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. The design and research studio would be based on the examination and re-invention of a number of these building types.

Participants will have the benefit of visiting numerous cities under-going massive change, exploring broad-ranging issues such as identity, migration, cultural production, colonialism, nationalism and globalization through topics in architectural history and theory. This program will include study trips to the cities of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou and Shenzhen. In support of the design and research studio, a daily lecture and seminar program will further enrich the participants’ knowledge in these fields.

Deadline for registration

  • April 15, 2013


  •  SHA: Jul 5-18, 2013
  • HKG: Jul 19-26, 2013
  • SIN: Jul 27-Aug 2, 2013

Program directors



Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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The Shanghai alleyway house: A vanishing urban vernacular

Bracken, Gregory. (2013) The Shanghai alleyway house : A vanishing urban vernacular. London : Routledge. 200 p. (Contemporary China series). ISBN 978-0-415-64071-8.

As a nineteenth-century commercial development, the alleyway house was a hybrid of the traditional Chinese courtyard house and the Western terraced one. Unique to Shanghai, the alleyway house was a space where the blurring of the boundaries of public and private life created a vibrant social community. In recent years however, the city’s rapid redevelopment has meant that the alleyway house is being destroyed, and this book seeks to understand it in terms of the lifestyle it engendered for those who called it home, whilst also looking to the future of the alleyway house.

Based on groundwork research, this book examines the Shanghai alleyway house in light of the complex history of the city, especially during the colonial era. It also explores the history of urban form (and governance) in China in order to question how the Eastern and Western traditions combined in Shanghai to produce a unique and dynamic housing typology. Construction techniques and different alleyway house sub-genres are also examined, as is the way of life they engendered, including some of the side-effects of alleyway house life, such as the literature it inspired, both foreign and local, as well as the portrayal of life in the laneways as seen in films set in the city. The book ends by posing the question: what next for the alleyway house? Does it even have a future, and if so, what lies ahead for this rapidly vanishing typology?

 More info


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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RELOCATE’13 Student congress on urban transformation

RELOCATE aims to gather up Architectural Faculty students around the world for developing new forms of design criticism on current architectural, design or urban issues. RELOCATE is envisioned as a series of workshop events aiming to relate architectural education with architectural training and materials and daily issues. In this sense, it tries to support “hands on training” for architecture. RELOCATE takes start with this year’s congress under the name RELOCATE’13.

RELOCATE’13  focuses on urban and social transformation processes through analysis, critics and conceptual interventions.

Participating students will be joining fellow students from Turkey and across the world to debate the raising issues in the area of urban transformation and architectural education in a conference organized by students for students, with the support of staff at Maltepe University’s Faculty of Architecture. The papers will be published in RELOCATE’13 Congress Book.

Abstracts can be submitted via e-mail to relocate@maltepe.edu.trby 1 March 2013.


  • T.C. Maltepe University, Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul, Turkey


  • 18-19 April 2013


  • Murat Nizam, Congress Executive Committee  (President)
  • Ilgın Yeşim Eldeş, Congress Executive Committee  (Vice-president)




Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Original copies: architectural mimicry in contemporary China


  • A 108-meter high Eiffel Tower rises above Champs Elysées Square in Hangzhou. A Chengdu residential complex for 200,000 recreates Dorchester, England. An ersatz Queen’s Guard patrols Shanghai’s Thames Town, where pubs and statues of Winston Churchill abound. Gleaming replicas of the White House dot Chinese cities from Fuyang to Shenzhen. These examples are but a sampling of China’s most popular and startling architectural movement: the construction of monumental themed communities that replicate towns and cities in the West. – Jacqueline Nivard

Tags: copies, architectral mimicracy, China

by: Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Conference announcement: The architecture of Southeast Asian cities

The Architecture of Southeast Asian Cities: how do architectural and urban expressions of modernity relate to heritage?

  • Dates: Wednesday, 12 June, 2013 to Sunday, 14 July, 2013
  • Venue: ENSAPB – 60, Boulevard de la Villette – Paris 75019 – France

The conference will deal with recent physical transformations and developments of Southeast Asian cities. This broadly defined geographical area is characterised in part by the diversity of its human settlements, which historically have experienced intense cultural exchanges with each other and with other cultures from beyond Southeast Asia.

These historic interactions have led to the creation of distinctive spatial cultures. Today, Southeast Asian cities are experiencing both rapid urban transformations and increased globalising influences, which are reflected in the changing nature of the agents, models and tools of urban development. In analysing these trends, the conference will question the influence of inherited spatial cultures in the shaping of recent projects.

Contemporary debates in urban studies often centre around the idea of a uniform kind of globalising urbanisation which is spreading world wide. The conference will examine this idea as a hypothesis in light of the history of each city, the persistence of ancient urban morphologies, and heritage policies promoted by various Southeast Asian nations.

More information

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities

This paper entitled “Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities: Place for localities or symbol of culture?”, written by Fei Chen (University of Liverpool) gives a critical analysis of urban conservation and regeneration programmes in China1.  Ever since Beijing’s implementation of regulation on urban conservation, major Chinese cities have undertaken urban conservation projects. The author has selected four of them to study:  “Hu’er hutong” in Beijing, “Tong Fang Xiang” in Suzhou, the “Xintiandi” project in Shanghai and “Nanjing 1912” in Nanjing. The initial objectives of these conservation programmes were to provide modern facilities to residents and to preserve some of the traditional urban characteristics of the area, but because of capitalisation in the historical districts, the author notes that local authorities and land developers gradually came to neglect social cohesion, as the price of land increased. 

Fei Chen analyses these four programmes from three different perspectives: developers’ and local governments’ initiatives, their impact on residents, and the use of traditional architecture.

  • According to Fei Chen, the way in which local authorities intervene through these regeneration programmes has changed over the years. On the one hand, local authorities have decreased subsidies for the preservation of these particular historical districts as real estate prices have risen. On the other hand, municipal governments have, more and more, supported measures aimed at improving an image or promoting a place. Urban regeneration programmes have become tourist destinations.
  • Secondly, the author notes that these programmes did not all have the same objectives. Whereas the early ones tended to maintain the original residents in their historical districts, the later ones had a more commercial purpose and did not offer in situ housing lots for former residents who were then relocated far from the city centre. But even in the case of Beijing and Suzhou, the original residents were not able to keep their homes in these “preserved districts”; real estate pressure caused most of them to choose to sell or rent their former house to the emerging middle-class, which was seeking a more traditional “Chinese” atmosphere. These projects have in fact exacerbated the gentrification process of historical districts in Chinese cities.
  • In the field of architecture, Fei Chen observes an evolution of the regeneration process. The first urban development programmes tended to adapt traditional aspects to modern life. For instance, in Beijing’s Ju’er Hutong, the new courtyards were built to a design that allowed residents to socialise, thus respecting the “substance” of Chinese traditional living.  But more recent programmes have given preference to reproducing particular features of traditional architecture, such as curved roofs, to enhance their projects.  In other words, conservation efforts are limited to aesthetic considerations. The author notes that, in every case, tradition has been manipulated for the purpose of promoting a particular place, in order to offer an “exotic” and attractive image to the new Chinese upper-middle class and to tourists. Fei Chen regrets that in transforming these districts, many original buildings have been destroyed and she illustrates this with the case of Xintiandi, where only 2 historical blocks out of 23 have been preserved. 

Sinan Mansions, a high end complex near Xintiandi, Shanghai, Goulard SébastienFei Chen advocates more local resident participation in regeneration programmes, in order to avoid gentrification and truly respect traditions. For the author, traditions cannot persist exclusively in the form of architectural elements, but need the involvement of residents who will adapt traditions to their needs. Thus, we can conclude that the author opposes the creation of historical districts that resemble museums with frozen traditions.

As Fei Chen points out, Chinese cities have had to “modernise” their city centres as a consequence of rapid urban development. However some parts have been preserved or transformed into historical districts. Residents have been excluded from these initiatives, which have mainly served commercial and tourist purposes.  

Issues regarding historical conservation are being dealt with in many cities around the world, and particularly in Europe. But unlike Chinese cities, the historical districts in European cities are not preserved by means of a single large scale programme. There is a variety of projects (regeneration, rehabilitation) for the same area. This diversity of projects makes historical districts more vibrant and creates links with other parts of the city.

Full text available online

  1. Chen, F (2011) “Traditional architectural forms in market oriented Chinese cities: Place for localities or symbol of culture?” Habitat International vol 35, issue 2:410-18 []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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