Understanding the form transformation of traditional towns and villages in China (1998-2021): a case study on the production of space in the cultural region of Huizhou

Cheng, Xiao (2022) Understanding the form transformation of traditional towns and villages in China (1998-2021): a case study on the production of space in the cultural region of Huizhou. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (24MB) | Preview


Not only Chinese cities have seen vast urban form transformations in the rapid urbanization process, the subordinate traditional towns and villages have also experienced profound form changes, but in a different mode compared to those in cities. This has been especially evident under waves of national policies promoting urbanization and rural development during the past two decades, such as ‘Urban Housing System Reform’, ‘New-Type Urbanization’, ‘Building a New Socialist Countryside’, ‘Construction of Beautiful Village’ and ‘Rural Revitalization’. However, in this process designers (e.g., planners, architects and urban designers) have embraced partial understandings of the form issues and offered problematic approaches to them. To more comprehensively understand the form transformation in traditional towns and villages beyond conventional planning and architectural design arena, deeper research is needed to explain the underlying social-spatial factors especially their logics, involving policy, economy, culture, capital, design, and local people’s ‘everyday life’ (Lefebvre, 1991a).

The research treats the form transformation as the result of ‘production of space’, (Lefebvre, 1991b) and particularly examines the context of traditional towns and villages to customize an analytical mode of the concept of ‘production of space’. It aims to utilize the mode to more comprehensively explain the contextual form transformation with its underlying mechanisms against the backdrop of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, so as to create a valuable reference for designers and decision-makers.

More specifically, inspired by Lefebvre’s dialectical triad of social space (ibid.), the research builds the analytical mode upon three levels: the top-down driving forces (government power and public/nongovernment capital) are the supplier of space, speaking of ‘representation of space (conceived space)’; the bottom-up local people are the receiver and occupier of space, inhabiting ‘representational space (lived space)’; the middle level designers should be the negotiator of space, who need to connect the conceived space and lived space through ‘spatial practice (perceived space)’. The research then focuses on a specific field: the traditional towns and villages in the cultural region of Huizhou in south-east China, where relevant themes can provide vivid examples of form change. It hence moves the analytical mode to Huizhou to carry out a case study, explaining two trends of contextual form transformation through studying two sub-cases of space production, which all involves local people’s living space. The two kinds of space production are: the space production for growth represented by local efforts of ‘building new residential districts’, and the space production in inventory represented by local causes of ‘relocating and renovating dwellings and houses’.

The research argues that the ‘production of space’ in Huizhou has been in a compromised mode, being different from that in Chinese cities, and the built tradition has been diminished and fragmented. The logics, motivations and expectations of the three levels of stakeholders in the form transformation have been incredibly diverse — yet they have coexisted in the same process of space production and resulted in same form results. Also, the research suggests that designers in the context have not effectively connected the conceived space and lived space in playing their roles, and the position and significance of design have not been well recognized there. The research further recommends that the form change in Huizhou could be design-led growth or regeneration based on a mediating platform formed by urban design wisdoms, and the wisdoms should be carried out by integrated design efforts across urban and rural areas against the backdrop of the national cause of urban-rural integration, which could be implemented through potential regional design guides (e.g., Huizhou region) breaking current urban-rural separations regarding design. Upon this, designers should also hold right design values that not only conform with bigger logics from the space suppliers, but also aim to put local people first, create places, and nurture wider social awareness of design in the context.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Heath, Tim
Keywords: Traditional Towns and Villages; Form Transformation; Production of Space; Design; Everyday Life; city planning, Huizou--buildings and structures
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 69669
Depositing User: CHENG, XIAO
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2022 08:05
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2022 08:08
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/69669

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View