Author: Zhang, Suxin
Title: Placemaking and revival in heritage conservation areas located in the Chinese urban centres
Advisors: Bruyns, Gerhard (SD)
Jachna, Timothy (SD)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2022
Subject: Historic preservation -- China
Cultural property -- Protection -- China
Historic buildings -- Conservation and restoration -- China
City planning -- China
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Design
Pages: xx, 364 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Dating back to the Chinese economic reform beginning in 1979, a series of socio-economic changes have transformed Chinese society, namely marketisation, decentralisation, industrialisation, migration and globalisation. These have brought about extremely rapid urbanisation throughout China, especially in metropolitan areas. The list of National Historical and Cultural Cities (国家历史文化名城), which was first released in 1982 and to which cities continue being added, is a first incentive of the formulisation of a Chinese heritage protection system. Cities such as Shanghai (population of around 24 million), Suzhou (around 10 million) and Nanjing (8.5 million) compete for the top-20 positions in the Chinese city tier system, thus exposing the pressure Chinese cities continuously face at specific two levels. On the one hand, there is a demand that cities rapidly expand and respond to socio-economic and population needs, whilst on the other hand, there is an obligation to ensure the protection of cities as national historical and cultural landscapes.
In 2014, the National Government began to restrict the rate of urban sprawl for cities with populations of more than five million. Consequently, the regeneration of 14 earmarked cities focused on the methods and protocols needed for the regeneration of historic old towns. In this context, the challenge to mitigate the conflicts between development and protection in the regeneration process of top-tier cities' heritage conservation areas remains pressing.
This research focusses on placemaking and place revival in the heritage conservation areas of urban centres in Chinese cities. Driven by the question of how heritage protection and urban development can or should be balanced in the Chinese urban centre context, this thesis aims to address two research gaps. First, it assesses the relevance of placemaking and the protection of Chinese metropolitan heritage conservation areas, specifically questioning how placemaking, a Western urban design concept, can be introduced into the regeneration of Chinese heritage conservation areas, ultimately establishing the theoretical benchmark between both placemaking and heritage protection. Second, it deconstructs placemaking used in the current redevelopment projects of Chinese metropolitan heritage conservation areas to understand how placemaking is applied to balance development and protection in these areas.
The Yangtze River Delta is the area of the research focus, focussing on two cases, the Yihe Mansions of Nanjing and the Pingjiang Area of Suzhou. As an affluent region in China with several cities on the national historical and cultural list, these cases are particularly relevant. Each case represents urban design schemes from two distinct periods, the Republic of China (beginning in the 1920s) and ancient China (before 1229). In addition, each case has completed redevelopment projects, and both have been awarded an Honourable Mention of UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation.
Methodologically, unobtrusive and obtrusive methods were adopted for analysis. The findings showed the differences and overlaps between the two regeneration models of Chinese metropolitan heritage conservation areas, namely the government-led and university-led models. Additionally, the findings revealed that the approach to placemaking in the two models set a different balance between development and protection. In particular, stakeholders' roles and their relationships were analysed in each model, interpreting the balance between stakeholders' interests and the process of placemaking. In terms of placemaking's impact, stakeholders' perceptions and their evaluation of places revealed that placemaking produces a different balance between economic needs and heritage values protection in each of the two models.
The thesis's findings demonstrate that placemaking could maintain the authenticity and integrity of heritage conservation areas in terms of physical and spiritual perspectives, rather than over-developed 'theme parks'. Overall, this thesis proves that placemaking has potential for application in the regeneration of Chinese metropolitan heritage conservation areas that addresses the conflict between urban development and heritage protection. The feasible and flexible mechanisms of placemaking will contribute to the subsequent practice of metropolitan areas, ultimately gaining dynamic heritage protection for Chinese cities.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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