Transforming Chinese Cities

Keywords: ageing, migration, urban regeneration, liveability

Urbanization in China is an on-going process that leads to formation and transformation of city regions with large numbers of migrants. At the same time, cities are ageing, so too are the populations who inhabit them. The objective of this project is to devise innovative solutions to the challenges facing cities that arise from the interplay of ageing urban environments and ageing populations, in the context of urbanization and migration. It will identify ways of planning to more effectively integrate the physical character of cities with social issues to create healthier, more liveable, and more inclusive places – and provide new models of city development that promote ‘people-centred urbanization’. This will mean real and material improvement to the lives of not only vulnerable groups such as seniors and migrants but all city-dwellers.

What are effective planning and design strategies that could ultimately move Chinese cities towards a more inclusive, liveable and vital scenario? Answers to this question may vary between cities, which are at different stages of industrial and urban development. A good understanding on correlations among socio-economic conditions, urban form and governance can help unlock the question. Generally speaking, Chinese cities are experiencing a paradigm shift on urban development, focusing more and more on regeneration of existing built-up areas than construction of new towns/districts. Urban regeneration is therefore playing an increasingly important role in reshaping spatial structures at the city-regional level and urban form at the neighbourhood level. It brings opportunities to improve liveability and urban vitality, making better places for people living and working inside cities. In order to have a closer look at current realities, two cities in the Pearl River Delta region will be uses as study cases: Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Graduations addressing these two Chinese cities investigate the above-mentioned changes and challenges by means of research and design. They participate in a dedicated and long-standing co-operation with local partner institutes.

Learning goals

At the end of the graduation year, students will be able to

  1. Clearly explain the transformation processes of Chinese cities from a self-defined perspective, addressing both social and physical dimensions of the process related to the issue of ageing;
  2. Map the social and spatial transformation processes in Chinese cities with effective analytical tools and correlated narratives.
  3. Envision desirable and possible futures for sustainable aging Chinese cities;
  4. Apply socio-spatial design principles in Chinese cities in respond to ageing of cities and citizens.
  5. Reflect on the on-going urban planning and design process in China in relation to the issue of aging cities and citizens.

Relation with research activities

The project is in line with the ongoing collaboration between TU Delft and South China University of Technology and other Chinese partner institutions. The recent submitted H2020 proposal- SAge (Sustainable ageing for cities and citizens)- provides a framework for research topics and methodologies.


QU Lei, L.Qu@tudelft.nl
Gregory Bracken, G.Bracken@tudelft.nl

Reading recommendation

  • Badland, H., Whitzman, C., Lowe, M., Davern, M., Aye, L., Butterworth, I., Hes, D. & Giles-Corti, B. (2014) Urban liveability: Emerging lessons from Australia for exploring the potential for indicators to measure the social determinants of health. Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 111: 64-73.
  • Dorst, M.J. van (2010) Sustainable Liveability: Privacy Zoning as a Physical Condition for Social Sustainability in Tolba, M.K., Abdel-Hadi, A., Soliman, S. (eds.) Environment, Health, and Sustainable Development. Cambridge: Hogrefe and Huber, pp. 111-126.
  • Saunders, D. 2010. Arrival city: how the largest migration in history is reshaping our world, New York, Pantheon Books. This popular book examines the phenomenon of migration in 30 cities and villages on five continents.  It analyses how migration impacts cities, population growth, foreign aid and politics.

Exemplary graduation projects

HOEK, R. C. 2015. Repaving the path towards arrival: An alternative redevelopment strategy supporting migrants’ small business for urban villages in peripheral Shenzhen. Graduation Report Master Thesis in Urbanism. Delft, Delft University of Technology.

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Yazhi Xiao, TU Delft master thesis, 2015.