Planning urban nature: urban green space planning in post-1949 China: Beijing as a representative case study
Planning urban landscape is part of the process of adapting the physical environment to better fit with human needs and desires. In China, urban green space is the result of such human adaptation of natural environments. This research analyses the evolution of post-1949 Chinese urban green space development in terms of how urban nature has been conceptualised, valued, used and planned within the Chinese context, and the underlying driving forces for the evolution. Beijing provides an effective, historical and comparative demonstration of this evolution because it is China’s capital and immersed in the very socio-cultural, political, economic, and environmental conditions that underpin new planning approaches. Urban green space development in China syntheses the influences from the Soviet, the West, particular Chinese traditional values and government aspirations. This has produced a distinctive Chinese pattern of adapting natural environments: retreating from reflecting political ideology and turning to pragmatism; valuing nature more for its own sake; establishing green space as a necessary and primary land use rather than serving as a standby for other land uses. During this evolution, various planning approaches to urban green space emerged on a “societal demand – supply of green space” basis - the quantitative approach, greenbelts and green wedges, the “filling in” approach, establishment of scenic spots and nature reserves, park hierarchy, the ecological approach, and the new Feng-shui. Overall, urban green space planning scope has extended fundamentally from a city-centred to a regional focus with a wider landscape ecological content. The prevailing subordination of urban green space planning to master planning in conventional planning frameworks has loosened. There is a growing trend towards urban green space planning as a prime determinant in urban planning process. Overall changes indicate a fundamental shift from an unconscious, reactive, narrowly focused, and in some ways contradictory view of urban green space, towards a more comprehensive, integrated and future-focused way of conceptualising and managing urban nature. With regard to essentially different planning philosophies and focuses, I categorised these various approaches into four types of planning strategies, namely haphazard provision, standards-oriented, usage-oriented and conservation-oriented strategy. They were compared for their strengths and weaknesses as planning tools when addressing various demands. The study lastly calls for a systemic and flexible planning strategy - multilevel and multifunctional, with an emphasis on ecological functions to deal with today’s complex urban socio-environmental problems in China. Such a strategy would need to recognise the challenge for any one approach to address all the problems, instead adopting multiple complementary and synergistic approaches.... [Show full abstract]
KeywordsBeijing; environmental planning; functions and values of urban nature; landscape architecture; landscaping history and evolution; landscape ecological planning; urban green space planning approaches; urban landscape and environment; post-1949 China
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