Lixiong Liu, Yanliu Lin, Shifu Wang (2014), Urban design for post-earthquake reconstruction: A case study of Wenchuan County, China, Habitat international (2014) 290-299.
How to reconstruct a post-earthquake area by protecting the safety system and creating public spaces while considering the involvement of different stakeholders in the process of urban design? In the case study of Wenchuan County in China, a top-dow integrated approach contributed to promote economic growth and to enhance the quality of life within the city in the long term, but it seemed that this rapid reconstruction driven by public authorities has lead to new issues between urban resilience and the dynamics of the real estate market, and between the daily need of habitants and the new open spaces.
Urban design is a matter of collaboration between various disciplines, resulting in three-dimensional urban forms and an enhancement of the quality of urban life (Waterman & Wall, 2009). The “quality of life” associated with the built environment includes not only the physical characteristics of the place, such as the diversity of open space (Allan & Bryant, 2010), but also the social attributes of the environment, such as the sense of neighbourhood (Chapman & Larkham, 2007), increased vitality and safety, available amenities and facilities (Carmona, De Magalhaes, Edwards, Awuor, & Aminossehe, 2001). Contemporary urban design theories are concerned with shaping city and urban spaces to encourage social activities within the urban fabric, create positive social interactions, satisfy ecological needs, mitigate the negative effects of urbanization and promote economic growth (Clancy, 2011). The key principles of such theories include places for people, enriching the existing, making connections, working with the landscape, mixing uses and forms, managing the investment and designing for change (Davies, 2007). Some recent urban design literatures also focus on vision development, strategy-making and the role of key stakeholders in the production of space (Lin and De Meulder, 2012 and Salet, 2006).
Weizhou Town was severely destroyed during the earthquake. In the process of reconstruction, priority was given to “higher levels of safety and earthquake resistance” that is one of the main concerns of urban design in earthquake-prone areas (see Ciborowski, 1982). As a considerable amount of arable land was lost and the majority of industrial facilities were damaged, how to promote economic development became a key issue of the town. Considering that there were many tourism attractions in the surrounding area (such as traditional Qiang stockade villages) and the town became famous after the earthquake, the development of tourism was thus adopted as a new strategy to promote economic growth. Consequently, three visions were proposed in the Urban Design for the Reconstruction of Weizhou Town (2009). Firstly, Weizhou Town was to be the ‘Sunshine Gokseong’ of Sichuan Western Qiang areas – a safe and ecological town. In order to realize this vision, a series of actions (e.g. the creation of three large evacuation squares and the recovery of the ecosystem in the surrounding mountains) were performed. Second, Weizhou Town was to be an important node of the Xiqiang Cultural Corridor. It was not only the memorial base of the earthquake, but also a cultural and historical town with traditional Qiang stockade villages. Third, Weizhou Town was comprised of a part of the Western Sichuan tourism system. The construction of memorials and tourism facilities and the improvement of the infrastructure fulfilled the demands of both tourism development and the town’s inhabitants. The three visions of the urban design project were related to the town’s long-term vision, namely to become ‘a provincial level historical–cultural site, a tourism town, a traffic hub, a political centre and an ecological zone’ (Recovery and Reconstruction Plan of Weizhou Town (2008–2020)).
Overview of institutional arrangements in the formulation of urban design project for the reconstruction of Weizhou Town. (Source: authors’ drawing.)