Small Urban Spaces in China and Europe: theory, assessment, planning and design

Li, Ying ORCID: 0000-0003-4296-2753 (2015) Small Urban Spaces in China and Europe: theory, assessment, planning and design. In: Landscape in Flux. Peer Reviewed Proceedings ECLAS 2015 Conference Landscapes in Flux, pp. 355-362. ISBN 9789949536979

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In 1989, Jane Jacobs wrote about four similar squares near City Hall in Philadelphia, that only Rittenhouse Square was ‘beloved and successful’. Her explanation was its diversity of pedestrian generators. Other theorists, including Bill Hiller and Jan Gehl have given equally confident explanations of why some spaces are more popular than others. My research set out to test theories of this kind by using the assessment criteria they recommend and relating them to the use intensity of 100 squares (in London and Tianjin). Small urban public open spaces are something of a problem in both east and west. Tianjin had few public open spaces before the 20th century and has made a great many since China’s economic reforms began in 1978. Tianjin has higher population densities than London, but its POSs have lower use intensities. One hundred POSs were surveyed and assessed, with the assessment criteria drawn from the literature of urban design and landscape architecture. Statistical tests were used to investigate possible correlations between the criteria proposed by theorists and the use intensities as surveyed in the spaces. The result showed that most of the criteria proposed by theorists have little or no correlation with use intensity. The best theories for predicting use intensity were those which grew from empirical research, rather than armchair speculation. William H Whyte’s findings, from his book on the Social Life of Small Urban Space were confirmed. Bill Hiller’s work on Space Syntax, was partially confirmed. Jane Jacob’s theories were not confirmed. Further investigation revealed that although no criteria have universal validity, particular criteria can be used to explain the popularity of particular POSs. They could be used in design guides to help with the problem that (1) in China, most POSs are surprisingly unpopular (2) in Europe, some POSs are surprisingly unpopular.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture > SB469 Landscape gardening. Landscape architecture
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Ying Li
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2019 14:23
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:23

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