Decoding the Logic of Space and Unlocking the Potentials of City Centres: A case study of Guangzhou Old City

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Abstract Summary
Background and aim: Being the first cities benefited from the Reform and Opening Up policy since 1978, Guangzhou acts as the pioneer of the economic development of the country and develops to be a prosperous metropolis. While with China entering a “new normal” stage, the case of Guangzhou Old City poses the challenge where a highly self-grown urban fabric shown as the historical city centre is struggling with social and spatial segregation and low level of investment. This paper sets out to compare two different types of city centres located in the Old City Area of Guangzhou, namely the historical centre as “Beijing Road Centre” and the planned centre as “Zhujiang New Town Centre“. It then attempts to reveal the underlying spatial self-organisation structure of the city and evaluate the performance of these two centres, by looking at the spatio-social complexity of Guangzhou Old City Area across different scales, in order to propose the delicate physical interventions to further unlock the potentials of these urban buzz. Material and methods: A spatial model called ‘axial map’ is constructed based on typological relations of the street network in the Old City Area. Space Syntax methodology has applied to see how far such a dynamic socio-spatial structure through the configurational analysis of the spatial layouts can be found. It is argued that the movement flows in different part of a street network are systematically influenced by the spatial configuration of the network itself, and such a relation will affect the land use pattern through the mechanism of ‘movement economy’ and ‘multiplier effects’. The syntactic values are correlated with land use patterns to examine the extent to which the spatial configuration has played a key role in affecting the performance of each centre. By identifying the mismatch between the spatial configuration and current land use pattern of each centre supported by the big data of POI analysis, the study seeks to measure and compare the spatial efficiency as the basis for further interventions. Results and conclusions: It is indicated that the spatial configuration plays a significant role in shaping the socio-economic dynamics of the Old City. The study demonstrates that the major problem of the Zhujiang implanted planned centre rises from the fragmentation of its internal spatial structure and lack of community-wide connectivity at the local scale. While the downgrading spiral of the historical centre is mainly affected by the changing demographic profile of the area. Difference in retail types is identified to explain the different performance of these two centres. As the spots of city vitality, several underperformed centres across various scales with low spatial efficiency within these two centre areas are spotted and strategically considered as the precious land resources for good growth contributing to the rejuvenation of the Beijing Road historical city centre. And more delicate stitching and patching work on the micro-circular street system is suggested to improve the local accessibility of the implanted Zhujiang planned centre. Through limited spatial interventions, the upgrading strategy is suggested to facilitate the self-improvement of the centres by increasing their spatial integration to the whole Old City. Furthermore, it provides a baseline guide for decision making and assisting the process of design. Reference Hillier, B. (1999). Centrality as a process: accounting for attraction inequalities in deformed grids. Urban Design International, 4(3-4), pp.107-127. Hillier, B. and Hanson, J. (2003). The social logic of space. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press. Penn, A., Hillier, B., Banister, D. and Xu, J. (1998). Configurational modelling of urban movement networks. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 25(1), pp.59-84.
Abstract ID :
ISO307
Submission Type
Guangzhou Urban Planning & Design Survey Research Institute
Guangzhou Urban Planning Design & Survey Research Institute
Guangzhou Urban Planning & Design Survey Research Institute

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