Tag Archives: new town

European and Asian sustainable towns


Pascaline Gaborit (ed.) (2014). European and Asian sustainable towns, new towns and satellite cities in their metropolises. Bruxelles: Peter Lang.

In the face of growing needs and problems around urbanization, the sustainable development of cities does not lie only in technology, research and innovation. Sustainable local development also results from a combination of different elements related to the development of social cohesion, the local economy, the environment and culture; also, crucially, it depends on the autonomy of local authorities and the adoption of the most appropriate system of governance. In addition, the urgent need to create better and more liveable cities is now inextricably linked with the integration of environmental principles, in order to prevent the waste of resources and mitigate climate change by restricting CO2 emissions. Within this framework, new strategies have been implemented for the development of ‘New Towns’ or satellite cities.

This publication gathers together contributions from different experts involved in the EAST (Euro Asia Sustainable Towns) project. The contributors originate from India, China, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and France, and come from a variety of different backgrounds, including academic researchers, urban planners, architects, political scientists and practitioners.

This book can be ordered through Peter Lang’s website.

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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Urban vitality in Dutch and Chinese new towns

Zhou, J. (2013) Urban vitality in Dutch and Chinese new towns : a comparative study between Almere and Tongzhou. Ph. D. dissertation, Delft University of Technology, Delft.

Building new towns seems to be a rational approach that releases pressure from overly burdened large cities. This strategy was developed in Western Europe in the middle of twentieth century. Since the 1990s, the European new town model has been widely implemented in China. However, the author questions the feasibility of the large-scale, hasty new town developments. The study of worldwide new town experiences, especially European and Chinese cases, demonstrates that many new towns in fact have difficulty in achieving a real sense of urban quality and vitality. So far, few research projects have been conducted to evaluate and develop solutions for this problem.

‘Urban vitality in Dutch and Chinese new towns’ identifies the spatial and non-spatial factors and conditions that facilitate the development of urban vitality in new towns. It is aimed to reveal the impacts of spatial design, urban planning and governance approaches on the degree and patterns of local urban life of new towns in China and in the Netherlands, based on a comparative study of two cases: Almere in the north wing of the Randstad region in the Netherlands and Tongzhou in the metropolitan region of Beijing in China. The study does not intend to tackle the economic and sociological concepts in themselves, but to focus on the interrelationships between space and society.

Download full-text thesis on the TU Delft institutional repository

Monique Abud

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

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A tour of Chenggong, Kunming’s new city

On May 2013, Kunming municipal government moved its headquarters from downtown Kunming to brand new facilities in Chenggong, a new city in the making at about 20 kilometers south of the old city. Chenggong is expected to become the administrative and employment center of the Greater Kunming region, a vast territory of more than 20,000 km2 with about 6.5 million residents. The new town was planned for a population of 1.5 million and construction started in 2003.

Chenggong: the new Kunming municipal government center in Yunnan, Balula Luis
Chenggong: the new Kunming municipal government center, Balula Luis

Chenggong: the new Kunming municipal government center

 Since 2010, however, Chenggong new town has been making headlines on the news and internet blogs, which have described it as “one of the largest ghost towns in Asia”. Meanwhile, in 2010, Kunming officials decided to revise the city’s master plan in order to incorporate sustainable urban design principles on further development. The new master plan1 departed from the original layout of large ‘superblocks’ surrounded by multi-lane arteries, in an attempt to break down the superblocks into smaller blocks and narrower human-scale streets, with a hierarchy of densities and mixed-uses related to the ease of access to the public transportation system. By controlling urban form Chinese authorities expect to achieve a more sustainable, low-carbon urban environment in Chenggong.


Chenggong master plan (partial view)

 Approaching Chenggong on the Kunming-Chenggong expressway, Balula Luis

Approaching Chenggong on the Kunming-Chenggong expressway

 A visit to Chenggong in early June 2013 allowed for a brief assessment of the progress made so far in the new city. At the time of the visit the urban structure, as seen on the master plan, was still not obvious on the ground. Chenggong’s vast territory was still, apparently, a piecemeal development of separate urban hubs in diverse stages of completion, interconnected by highways, with no visible street hierarchy, and a grid of wide roads and large blocks.

 Chenggong: one of the new urban hubs, Yunnan, Balula Luis

Chenggong: one of the new urban hubs, as seen from the site of the new YunnanUniversity campus

 The subway/light rail system which is supposed to link all the hubs, however, was under fast construction and the first section of the line, connecting downtown Kunming to the first station in Chenggong, had just opened.

 A recently built light-rail line connecting downtown Kunming to Chenggong, Balula Luis

A recently built light-rail line connects downtown Kunming to Chenggong

 Whereas the “ghostly” character of the place was still quite evident, mostly on very recent urban areas, or on the many new parts still in construction, some other areas showed already encouraging signs of human presence (traffic and movement of people), as well as some incipient commerce on a few crossroads. Most importantly, in several completed buildings, many residential units were visibly occupied.
Typical streets and blocks of Chenggong, Yunnan, Balula Luis
Typical streets and blocks in Chenggong, Balula Luis

Chenggong: typical streets and blocks

 A larger influx of residents is expected soon due to a series of factors, such as the relocation of Kunming municipal government; the proximity of the new Yunnan University campus; the completion of the subway/light rail system; and last, but not least, lower apartment prices, as compared with central Kunming.

Typical street in Chenggong, Balula Luis

Chenggong: typical streets and blocks, Balula, Luis

Chenggong: typical streets and blocks

Whilst most new urban areas are high-density blocks, with stand-alone high-rise apartment towers (up to 40 stories) there are also whole blocks of mid-rise buildings (5-6 stories), which may reflect a variation of land-use densities along a future transportation corridor. In all arteries, growing trees and greenery attempt to attenuate the considerable width of streets.

Road landscaping in Chenggong, Kunming, Balula Luis

Chenggong: street and road landscaping is a visible concern everywhere

 As for the city’s urban design, however, the major problems seem to remain unaltered: superblocks are still the norm in Chenggong; the hard infrastructure of multi-lane roadways is prevalent; and the almost complete absence of stores suggests that most shopping must necessarily be done at the shopping mall, in another part of town. The wide streets and superblocks of Chenggong continue conveying the image of a car-oriented urban environment waiting to be populated by cars.Chenggong: an urban hub near completion, Balula Luis

Chenggong: another urban hub near completion

 It is still too early to evaluate the success of the new master plan, but Chenggong’s future, in terms of low-carbon sustainable urban form, will definitely depend on the capacity to find the right fit between urban design, density, land use and transportation decisions both at the local, neighborhood scale and at the regional scale of greater Kunming.

Chenggong, typical street, Balula Luis

Chenggong: one definitely needs a car to move around



  1. Plan of the month December 2010: low carbon urban design for China (2010), Better cities & towns  http://bettercities.net/article/plan-month-december-2010-low-carbon-urban-design-china-13576, accessed July 27, 2013 []

Luis Balula

Ph.D. Urban Planning and Public Policy (Rutgers University, New Jersey); M.Sc. Urban Affairs (Boston University); Architect (Technical University of Lisbon). Urban and regional planning consultant. Research fellow at Instituto de Ciencias Sociais – Universidade de Lisboa.

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