About Meng Xu

Hi, everyone, My name is Meng Xu. I come from Northeast of China and a beautiful city Harbin . I graduated from Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art and get the urban planning and design bachelor degree.I am a enthusiastic and heart-warm girl.

ART LED URBAN REGENERATION

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Cultural led urban regeneration is deemed as an effective way for the renascence of a declining old city. But culture is a very broad concept, for example, it could be historical culture, religious culture, food culture, festival culture, historical buildings, and so on. Art is part of culture and maybe the most often used means to create the symbol and image of the city. By transforming the city with art-based regeneration, it could attract more visitors and tourists. Further, the art business could bring in more bars, hotels and restaurants, which is benefit to the promotion of economic growth and increase investment of the area.

Typical examples for cultural led urban regeneration include east London and Philadelphia. The slums once called East London the scar of London, which had been featured, for over 400 years. The living environment there was almost disaster, industrial wastes, and disordered wires in the sky. However, things start to change in the last few decades, when more and more cutting-edge designers moved in. East London quickly became an internationally renowned art area, especially Hawkes Dayton area. Following the art business, more and more galleries, bars, coffee etc. began to establish here. Through art regeneration, east London find its way to prosperous.
The same is for Philadelphia. Philadelphia in the past has the glory of the world-manufacturing center, however, gradually declined as the moving out of manufacturing industry in the last century. The local Chinese residents have dubbed “Philadelphia” for “waste city “. After the end of the “cold war”, the local government worked hard to promote the city’s transformation, through government investment into the “non-profit cultural industries, such as large museums, art galleries, theaters, etc. In addition to Philadelphia’s main culture and art industry Museum and fresco art, the mural art is another beautiful landscape of the city. These attempts of using cultural led regeneration method not only won the Philadelphia reputation of culture and art, but also enhanced the Philadelphia’s identity identification as an important international big city.

Therefore, art is a good method for urban regeneration. Find an appropriate way to highlight the characteristic of the city is important, rather than following other city’s experience blindly. A proper policy for cultural led urban regeneration will finally be proved very rewarding.

SUMMARY OF SECOND SEMESTER

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I have experienced a rather busy and fulfilling semester in the past few months. Two projects and a literature review have pushed me into a cycle of reading, drawing and designing all day. Modifications of the design and scheme seem never to stop. Every course has its meaning, every course has something valuable to get. I have learnt a lot this semester.
In the course of City and Culture, we went to experience the local culture and the beauty of the city Nantes in France. Our main task is to redesign an abandoned site near the river, using the landscape urbanism principal we have learnt. It was a wasted place with abandoned railways staggered and few people tread. Our main starting point is to make this place attractive to tourists by conducting a whole new landscape design. We have changed our design for several times, under the instruction of our tutor. The advices he gave are always affordable, inspiring us to make our plan better and practical. In the course we learn how to integrate landscape design into the whole city; we learn how to connect the architectural landscape and road landscape better together. Always considering the feelings of people in the city, try to achieve better accessibility of the city is a clear venation for landscape design.

The other class is cohousing. This course cares more about the details. City design should not only consider the strategy, but also to consider every detail to do design code. I am quite confused about design code at the beginning and don’t know where to start. Through communicating with their classmates and teachers, I started to make it clear. It is about designing every detail, understanding every size of the scheme. Since cohousing itself for me is already a strange concept, this course is the big challenge for me. In the process from being totally strange to gradually clear on what to do, I learned a lot. I learned how to properly put the house, how to design a community, how to integrate the resources into the design to create a comfortable, harmonious, quiet environment for people to live in. I do not have much understanding about the details of architecture. My sense of scale is not very well. After this course, I got a better understanding of architecture.
Literature review is actually a foreshadowing to thesis design. The course let me choose a topic am interested in and then began to investigate it through by studying a lot articles. In the process of literature review, I have gathered lot raw materials for the final thesis design. By reading these articles and documents, I also start to understand more designing principles.

I have to say, this is a truly very tired semester. I spent almost every day drawing, reading, writing, and sometimes even barely have time to sleep. However, I believe it would be a precious memory in the end. The hard working time enriches my school life in the UK, and surely would help me to get a more valuable Master’s Degree.

The Project of Cohousing

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The cohousing project of our group is focused on senior cohousing, which is for age-peer groups over fifty or so. It is necessary to understand the concept of cohousing at first place. Cohousing is a form of group living which clusters individual homes around a ‘common house’ – or shared space and amenities. They may share common places such as community garden, kitchen, guest room together, but live separately. Older people can communicate with each other quite often in the cohousing experience, which could enrich their life and make them feel less lonely.

In our investigation, we find that Hexham is a typical elder living town. Young people mostly go to work in Newcastle at daytime, leaving the old and kids at Hexham. Our vision is to build a harmonious community that practicing the most of senior cohousing theory to help the old live a happy and enriched later life. The plan is mainly focused on the design of common house, which is shared by all the people in the community. Various of courses can be offered in the workshop, such as painting, dancing, musical instruments playing. Considering there are also a number of kids at Hexham at daytime, the courses can do benefits to the education of the kids. Also sports courts are necessary for the community. Providing activities that the old and kids can participate together is important.

However, cohousing may also bring in some concerns. Will some old people find disturbing? Or some people feel their privacies are invaded? Indeed, some people who love to live on their own pace do not like live in the cohousing communities. Therefore, in the design of cohousing community, we have to take special attention to the protection of people’s privacy.
In this course, I have learnt some fresh ideas and inspirations for the design in the future.

The Field trip to Nantes

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The field trip to Nantes this time is quite fruitful. We have communicated with local students, exchanged our ideas and understanding on urban design. For the landscape design of a city, it is crucial to combine its geographical resources and integrate its history into the design, just like Nantes.

Nantes is called the “Venice of the West” for its beautiful landscapes. It is bathed by the River Loire, thus for centuries, the river is the center for landscape design of the city. Along the river, lie several famous landmarks that are most popular sites for tourists in Nantes. Some of the landscapes designs are very impressive. The Allée Turenne is a typical example of landscape taking advantage of the river. As a reminder that this district was once encircled by branches of the Loire, Italo Rota and his team designed a new landscape layout for the “Green Island”. It is now covered with lawns and heather in linked geometric shapes, symbolizing the water with a “green streams” look.

France is an open and romantic country, which might be a reason for its distinctive open space design. Lying to the west of Feydeau, was Place de la Petite Hollande designed by Etienne Coutan. He adopted a sunken and non-fenced garden design to offer a viewpoint on the landscape without masking the perspectives. In this fieldtrip, we realize that finding a balance between the background of local culture and the functional requirements, in important to make an outstanding landscape design. For example, the Ile de Versailles was once an industrial district but now appears as a resolutely contemporary Japanese garden. However, the past has not been completely erased in the work. Among the rock gardens and exotic plants, the “Maison de l’Erdre” displays the island’s history and its river heritage, in the center of the Zen garden. To echo Japanese tradition, the“Maison de l’Erdre” is designed as a Japanese tea house.

Nantes is an extrodinary example of city taking advantage of its geographical resources such as rivers, hills and other natural scenery. This fieldtrip has provided us a chance to see and feel the art atmosphere of France. The romantic country, the landscapes and architectures can always give people a maverick feeling.

A review on “Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK” by Maria Brenton.

Cohousing is a form of group living that clusters individual homes around a‘common house’ or shared space and amenities. People cohousing live both ‘apart and together’ with neighbours who know each other and sign up to certain values. They form a community, and a sense of community does not ‘just happen’ merely from putting people together. Group cohesion requires specific capacity building if groups are to function well and harmoniously. Among the two cohousing models – the family-based model and senior cohousing, the article mainly discussed the later one.

Senior cohousing needs policy makers to recognize the benefits for older people of living in this way and to work to remove the obstacles that impede them. On the construction of senior cohousing, the author find Dutch experience is the most widely relevant to date through his research. The Dutchmen have developed as part of a public policy response to the anticipated needs of an ageing society. Their government promotes the concept of the ‘living group’ which sustains health and wellbeing and therefore reduces demand on health and social care services. Local authorities have also made modest resources available to older people’s groups. Older people in the groups have been empowered as part of the partnership through learning new skills and competences to become self-dependent. These can supplement older people’s drive and purpose with the financial skills and construction development experience they may lack. Senior cohousing is well developed in Netherland, with a marked feature of its flexibility of approach. Older Dutch people feel free to choose between joining family-based cohousing or forming their own age-peer groups, both seem to be reasonable. However, even though some efforts have been made to transplant the Dutch experience to other countries, it seem to be far from finishing.

It is clear that for senior cohousing to become an established and viable choice for people approaching old age in the UK, development of a broad infrastructure of support is needed. To date, no senior cohousing community has yet managed to establish itself in the UK. Some key barriers still need to be removed for senior cohousing’s progress in the UK, such as: unfamiliarity of the cohousing model, the difficulty of locating sites and the dominance of volume developers, lack of leadership at the national policy-making level and unwillingness to innovate, and so on. More works need be done before the elder UK people can enjoy the recent progress of senior cohousing. Key facilitators to senior cohousing’s progress are not fully established yet.

From the article, I have got a clearer map of the cohousing model and its development in both abroad and in the UK. Indeed, cohousing in the UK needs much more effort to be paid before it can contribute to the common well-being of UK people.

Evaluation of Community Planning and Life of Senior Cohousing Projects in Northern European Countries

Summary:
For the world’s future, how to deal with the issue of growing elderly people in different country is important. This means the new century do ask care for the new cohorts of the elderly which are not the same as the past in terms of their different living experience. In other words, how to meet their needs is the key to find out the proper solutions for improving the quality of life for the elder people. Housing is relatively vital while shaping better future. Therefore, the senior cohousing does have the ability to suit the housing needs of the elderly who ask for companionship with their neighbors in the community.

A cohousing community is an intentional community which includes private homes supplemented by shared facilities. The residents living in it could plan, own and manage the community by themselves including sharing different activities. The meaning of the senior cohousing scheme for the elderly people is to meet their need of spending their later life in a house where they can enjoy other’s companion and mutually support. It is necessary to point out that the senior cohousing community is not the only choice for the elderly people; moreover, the cohousing cannot replace the function of nursing home which provides unique professional care.

This article was written for investigating life of senior cohousing community in the countries of Denmark and Sweden. The investigation includes aspects of characteristics of residents, community planning and common activities. That is to say, evaluation towards physical environment, activities, moving motivations, life satisfaction are made to give suggestions and design inspirations for architects, designers and also the decision-makers involved with elderly welfare sector. After clarify some key questions during the investigation, the most important part of the article is no doubt the Findings and Discussion section.

The first difference for the two countries is the senior cohousing community’s initiative. Danish communities have been established by intensive involvement of future residents group in cooperation with municipality authorities, architects and builders. However, Swedish communities have been established mainly by non-profit or private housing companies rather than by future residents group. That is to say, the Swedish communities’ resident groups in are relatively more anonymous users compared to the Danish one. This difference is useful to know for the different impact which the different participation in the initiative stage of senior cohousing community brings. In other words, the Swedish community is the municipality-initiated while the Danish belongs to residents-initiated.

The article shows the investigating results including of age, healthy conditions, community planning and physical environment. Under the title of physical environment, the survey towards the satisfaction about the quality of the building design, common facilities and dwelling unit. These three aspects are the key elements for influencing the quality of the cohousing community’s physical environment. On the other hand, the life within the community is also vital which means the common activity has been considered as one of the most important factors by the researchers. Therefore, this investigation also includes the types of and participation in the common activities’ evaluation. This section also contains the findings about other indicators related with residents’ life like motivation of moving in, support for daily living, preference to age composition of inhabitants, mutual cooperation with neighbors, recommendation senior cohousing to others and consideration of moving out.

At last, there are five main findings are given out.
1.The characteristics about the composition of residents in subject senior cohousing communities.
2.The features about community planning of senior cohousing scheme
3.The most happening activities in the community between residents
4.Other few indicators related with life in the senior cohousing community
5.The overall evaluation of life satisfaction in the senior cohousing.

To conclude, the most respondents are very satisfied with and proud of their housing and living in the senior cohousing community. The meaning of spreading the senior cohousing is not only for improving the quality of life but also for better municipality’s care and nursing services for the old people. This means the senior cohousing can provide the chance of mutual support among the residents. This is good for prolonging the independence of each resident and avoid the situation of the local public authorities need to take over responsibility of individual care for the whole day. As to building the senior cohousing community outside the Scandinavian countries, the recommendation for that is the role of establishing those communities should be divided into offering home-service and healthcare service. Besides, the method about involvement of future resident groups from the establishment stage of community is also suggested. Although the senior cohousing functions are easy to be successful at the beginning stage, still one has to consider priorities of the residents at a later stage.

The experience of writing blog

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It is a whole new experience to write my own blog about my major on the website. By maintaining a blog, we mean to display our works, to express our opinions and to reply the commentaries regularly on a website. That is exactly what I have to do on my urban design blog. Moreover, as a specific blog, I need to make it all about urban design: a particular project, a review on a specific topic, some insights about urban design, and so on.

Maintaining a blog is a patient taking job, I need to post regularly, to find inspirations, to collect resources and get the work done. However, the process is also beneficial, I can get access to new knowledge and come up with new ideas, which is very helpful for future study. Every piece of a blog is a little step to improve myself. In order to exhibit a well-organized blog, I have to firstly find an interesting topic; it should better be the new point of interests in urban design or specifically reveals the features of my hometown. After choosing a good topic, here comes the resource collecting work, which is in my opinion the most important and interesting part in the process of achieving a good blog. By collecting the information about the topic, I got a better understanding of it, figuring out more details I omit of not fully get aware of before. Moreover, the process of extracting the essential points from the pile of raw materials also leads me to be critical thinking. What really matters in this project, what influence it has on the surrounding environment, what benefits it could brings to the community and a lot things like these. As is known to all, critical thinking is an essential ability for a student to get succeed in school. In order to get a good blog done, communication and discussion with others is also important. By exchanging thoughts and ideas with others, I could realize some shortcomings of my work; get aware of other possible solutions, which is very helpful for my personal improvement.

Another advantage of writing urban design blog is that I can communicate with the visitors who are interested in my writing. The blog is my showcase for understanding of urban design, and is open to discussion. If I organized my blog very well, the visitors would also benefit and learn something.
The last merit of writing blog maybe that it records my progress when studying in Newcastle. It reminds me of the good memories for every advance I made here when looking my blog becoming better and more mature.

I will write more blog in next semester and writing blog become my habits. I will write more my thoughts and idea for urban design, encourage myself. I hope my blog is benefit for some readers. I will write more case studying about the urban design, architecture, and landscape. I hope my blog can attract more people to read. I will make my blog more better.

Integrate agriculture in South Shield

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When I got this project, my thought was very simple and shallow. I only think about how to design this town, how to design a beautiful scenery and not about any other things. I just focus on the design and drawing, but did not link the design with social, economic, community, environment and a series of elements affecting this town. Furthermore, our project is part of an integrating agriculture in South Shield, so we also got some knowledge about the agriculture which was previously an unknown domain for us. I learnt about the steps and approach on how to design one town or even a city from this course.

First, if you want to design one city or town, you must learn about this history, location, boundary, surrounding environment through researching data from internet and documents from city council. Moreover, we also need to visit the sites many times to feel the traffic and road and the situations of the people living there. When I was fully awared of all the circumstances, such as economic conditions, traffic conditions, urban culture, employment, living conditions of people and architectural features, we may begin to redesign the city and integrate agriculture into it. We also need analysis the SWOT of this site. It is a rather significant part in the design which can lead you into critical thinking.

Secondly, after the baseline analysis, we start to think about the concept of our design. At first, I do not know the meaning of the concept until I search some data with the comment from our tutorial. I start to understand this concept and our group appoint our concept.

Thirdly, we consider the economy of this place about in deep and integrating agriculture into this place. We went to interview some of the local people asking them why there are a lot of shops closed, what is the reason that cause the economic recession. In additional, we also investigate their satisfaction with South Shield. According to the data, we know this place has high rental price, high level unemployment and low income. Based on these reasons, we start to figure out how to design this place and what attention we should pay to this place. Therefore, the main idea of our plan is to reduce the time spent on integration of agriculture which in detail separates the total 15 years plan into three terms. First five years, we focus on the development of high street urban agriculture units, providing free food for public access, enhancing purchasing power for other services, providing farming fun and flexible for both public. Second five years, construct new supermarkets to provide working opportunity for local people. The third five years, due to the potential of high land value, using indoor agriculture to move the outer urban agriculture sites into buildings.

However, our tutor points out some existing problems in our design, one of which is we cannot give the clarified concept. In the next, we need to design in detail about the catalyst sites, thinking out more possible weak points existed in our design with the critical thinking ways.

Environment Sensitivity and Sustainability-West Seoul Lake Park

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This project establishes a park on a waste factory that integrates into many elements of the fragment of industry. It is evident that people ought to use some old facility and abandoned industry though it cannot play the main role, it do not represent meaningless. This project is located in the boundary between the Seoul and Tomikawa. This area has the worst living conditions and dead soil in the city in the past, however it become a friendly park and the theme of ecology, culture and communication called “rebirth” nowadays.

Design concept

The core concept of this project is regeneration, ecology and communication. Designers plan to design the boundary of the park and community and connecting each other. It provides people an easier access to the park and our intervention would promote its connectivity to local residents.
Firstly, designers design the park as an “open cultural art space” embodying the diversity identities of this area and the culture of the city, using the local environment to create a “self-organizing culture” region for every people. Secondly, the park reserves the nature scenery and the nature topography, which integrates culture, nature and urbanity creating “urban ecology” space. We make use of the environment elements of the site to make a culture space for events with a home-grown culture scene open to all. It has also been created as a open park that enough indoor activities and special program to unite people traveling to this place. This park is the park of citizen, citizen-generated by participation and communication. Thirdly, it is beneficial for the ecology education of the school, such as the forest of the natural environment, value of water, scenery conservation, and nature study. Using this program encourages all classes to communicate with one another. Fourthly, as a site for urban culture reborn from a former water treatment plant, raw nature materials from the old plant were integrated into a new eco-functional space, in a surprising, inventive ways.

Design program

Entering the park, a large scale of brown object struck people’s eyes as they take in the entryway, colonnade and welcome sign bearing the words ”West Seoul Lake Park” as well as the benches and bicycle racks. This structure of the facility is reformed from horizontal and vertical arrangement of old water pipes spanning 1m in diameter, expressing the theme of rebirth, environment friendly and around water. The concept of the park lays an 18,000m artificial lake that is rare scenery in the town center of Seoul. Between the lake and old factory build observation decks for convenient lake viewing. Another special featured space is Mondrian Plaza. The designers’ adding of horizontal and vertical lines into the square of garden is producing a beautiful and harmonious effect. The star attraction of the Mondrian plaza is the “Media Art Fountain”, spanning 3m in height and 40m in width.

Through this project we should pay attention to some situations that old objectives could be redesigned into something new. Due to the less space and earth, places for huge scale designs are rare. Designer can make use of some old factories or the wasted earth to build theme park providing leisure space and amazing scenery. It is also in accordance to the trend of environment design – sustainability.

Reference: Project Title: West Seoul Lake Park
Project Location: Seoul Metropolitan City
Project Type: Park
Winning Awards : Honor Award in the general Design Category The American Society
of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2011 Professional Awards
Design Period: October.2007 ~ January.2008
Construction Period: March.2008 ~ October.2009

Landscape Slope

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The districts of Txurdinaga and Otxarcoaga are located at the edge area of the city in Bilbao’s district 3. On the slopes of the mountains that surround the city, a lot of dwellings a built for people, featured by lacking of urban services and infrastructures; after the civil war of the Spanish. As a consequent, the rocky embankment on Jesus Galindez Avenue had created an isolated piece of land within the city, and until today it has divided the city both physically and socially.

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The government improves the infrastructures of the city center and develop some projects of the suburban area so as to improve the conditions of the urban space of some of these outer areas. The project mainly take efforts to remove the physical barriers and improve the accessibility to these areas, which are always located on steep slopes; eliminate social barriers and improve the conditions of these areas in order to bring them the urban living quality level just as the centre of the city.
The meaning of this design is to restore the embankment on Jesu Galindez Avenue. The original site is composed of a rocky embankment with a difference in level of 18, which has stability problems that always cause landslides. Two districts are connected only by a small, poorly-maintained metal stairway that appears to be a social barrier, isolating the district of Otxarcoaga with its severe social problems from the rest of the city.

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The aim of this project is to consolidate the embankment. Designers use inclined planes of different materials shaping the embankment that show the special topography in this city. These triangle planes are formed by plant, rocks and concrete and reshape the special shape of shadow in the evening. In additional, setting a series of stairs to connect the top and bottom levels in order to reduce the physical barrier impact of the embankment in the city. Taking advantage of the height of this area, it can be transformed into a horizontal platform of the city. All the elements include in the leisure platform such as public toilets, stairways, the sitting areas. It is hided in a single fold.

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When people travel to this city, it is become a landmark in this city that brings a different landscape. That is the weakness in this city at the first, but designers do some changes to become a miracle in this city and attract a lot people traveling in this city.

Reference: “Galindez Slope and Pau Casals Square / ACXT” 17 Nov 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed 08 Jan 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=9093>


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