About Mengying Qiao

Hi, I am Mengying Qiao, as known as Joy. I am a girl from China. In July 2013, I graduated at Shanghai University where I received a bachelor’s in Urban Planning. I think life should not be flatly light. People should have their own pursuit and courage to challenge the limited life. Because I believe that human potential is endless, I would like to live in a competitive environment. That is why I choose to have my further study in Newcastle University. At present, I take a master course in Urban Design with the hope that I can learn a lot from this course and have different cultural experience. After 3 months living here, I now settle in well and I am so glad to make many new friends in Newcastle. Apart from urban design, things that hold my passion are listening to the music, reading, practicing my guitar and cooking. And also I really love traveling, going to new places to make new friends and learning about different cultures and life.

A community of older people in cohousing

cohousing provides community and independence

In this semester, our project is mainly about designing couhousing for elderly people. Durrett (2009) claims that ‘Senior cohousing is a relevant reaction to the realities of our society.’ It is different with other existing private households. Old people who live in isolated houses are pursuing the sense of belonging with neighborhood. Thus, what kind of community is in a senior cohousing? Taking care of each other, sharing the facilities and making decisions together make residents feel they are part of a community in a cohousing (Age UK, 2015). Through these things, older people feel they are independent and can stay for longer. Glass (2009) states that it is more important for senior than for other aged groups to have a community and independence. Therefore, many older people do prefer to live in cohousing rather than living alone or in retirement centres by themselves.

In addition, there are advantages in a cohousing community. Older individuals are from different background in terms of personal and social levels. It makes mutual relationships with neighbours. Also, promoting sense of wellbeing, reducing loneliness and isolation, continuing community engagement, staying healthier for longer and making them independence will be the result for elder people who are living in cohousing community (Brenton, 2013). There are positive view of old aged group who are in senior cohousing community.

However, there is a disadvantage in a cohousing community. It will spend a long time when people even decide simple things or buying things. The reason why is that everyone in cohousing need to agree on with that, it is like being married with many people (Age UK, 2015). Sometimes, it will be difficult for everyone to reach an agreement.

At last, cohousing can lead more benefit than its drawback. Community of cohousing will be good choice for senior people in the future.




Age UK (2015) Living together in a cohousing community. Available at: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/home-and-care/housing-choices/living-together-in-a-cohousing-community/ (Accessed: 10 May 2015)

Brenton, M. (2013) ‘Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK?’ JRF Programme Paper, January 2013. Available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/senior-cohousing-communities-full.pdf (Accessed: 10 May 2015)

Durrett, C. and Thomas, W. (2009). Senior cohousing handbook. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers.

Glass, A, (2009) ‘Why Aging in Community?’ pp 255-272, in Durrett (above)

Housing options for older people

housing options

In many countries, the challenge of ensure the high accessibility standard to all the units should be considered in purpose to ensure the environment more accessible when designing a house for older people (Maisel, 2010). Newer housing design for older people with the specific features like have impaired mobility and no- step entry and single floor living; and extra-wide hallways and doors for passing the wheelchairs that make the home more accessible (HOUSING AMERICA’S OLDER ADULTS, 2015).

According to a survey (Figure 1) taken by US department of house and urban development older households are more apt to choose the house with single-floor living features. The example of Eggerbraken an co-housing community of about 30 courtyard housed demonstrated the advantages. The units in this community are all one story which are all fully accessible except for kitchens and laundries that were designed to the individual household needs. By decreasing the use of stairs enable older adults to remain safely in their homes as the second greatest number of injuries occur on stairs and steps, especially during descent (WELLS and EVANS, 2015). Furthermore the one story house can forbid the sounds from the floor, for instances, the sound from the television might travel to the second floor if the bedroom is located directly upstairs. It is hard for people to have a sleep in that bedroom.

Figure 1: Newly Built Units Are Most Likely to Have Accessibility Features

Newly Built Units Are Most Likely to Have Accessibility Features

Source: JCHS tabulations of US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2011 American Housing Survey

While some accessibility improvements such as elevator navigate stairs can also help older people living safely even it is a two story house. A Swedish company named Senior Garde specializes in designing apartment for people over 50. Their projects are usually two and three story buildings located in the areas which suitable for retirement living. By installing elevators and internal weather protected circulation the projects are fully accessible even it is a two story building. A guest apartment is provided for visitors (Maisel, 2010). Therefore, in our project we try to mix one-story home and two-story home together for elderly people.

Reference and Images

Anchor, (2015). [image] Available at: http://www.anchor.org.uk/ [Accessed 10 May 2015].

HOUSING AMERICA’S OLDER ADULTS. (2015). [online] Available at: http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/livable-communities/documents-2014/Harvard-Housing-Americas-Older-Adults-2014.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2015].

Maisel, J. (2010). The state of the science in universal design. [Sharjah, U.A.E.]: Bentham Science Publishers.

WELLS, N. and EVANS, G. (2015). Home Safety Guidelines for Older Adults. [online] Available at: http://www.human.cornell.edu/dea/outreach/upload/Home-Safety-Guidelines-for-Older-Adults-2-2.pdf [Accessed 11 May 2015].

Pedestrian priority neighborhood

main pedestrian

From all the baseline analysis we come up with our vision for the project – ‘colorful village’. Colorful, it not only means visual but also implies diversity. We have six aspects for this vision: 1.a diverse community 2.a vibrant neighbourhood 3.strong community engagement 4.pedestrian priority neighborhood 5.grow their own food 6.small business. Here, I will explain more about pedestrian priority neighbourhood.

Currently, public health researchers are very interested in walking community. Because of lifestyle, leading to many negative health effects, such as obesity and heart disease(Hrushowy, 2006). Therefore, we want to build a place that encourage the residents to walk inside or outside the neighbourhood; a place which is more attractive, less polluted, less congested location and comfortable for people to walk (Hawaii Government, No date).

In our project, there is a main pedestrian road connect some open spaces to cohousing open space and also a walkable track connect to Cock Wood. People can walk through the whole site from social-private housing to cohousing area. In addition, some business will happen on the track. As Hawaii Government (No Date) mentioned, good sidewalk will bring huge benefits of economy. Some case studies have shown that because of convenient pedestrian design, high levels of retail activity often happen in shopping district and tourism areas. It means walkable areas will attract more people. However, in order to design successful pedestrian in neighbourhood, the appropriate units will be smaller than neighbourhood. Gehl (1987) gives one reason that human choose their specific route, rather than abstract entire neighborhoods, but the physical environment around pedestrians and social characteristics will decide the quality of the pedestrian experience (Bosselmann,1998; Cullen, 1961). Another reason is that most of pedestrian routes will happen on a block-by-block area, rather than entire neighbourhoods(Hrushowy, 2006). Therefore, when we think about our project, we need to work at this suitable scale.


Bosselmann, P. (1998). Representation of places: reality and realism in city design. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gehl, J. (1 987). Life between buildings: using public space. New York : Van Nostrand Reinhold,.

Hrushowy, Neil James Christopher. (2006). A Case Study of Pedestrian Space Networks in Two Traditional Urban Neighbourhoods, Copenhagen, Denmark. University of California Transportation Center. UC Berkeley: University of California Transportation Center. Retrieved from: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/8m67n55j

Hawaii Government (No date) Available at: http://hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/files/2013/07/Pedest-Tbox-Toolbox_9-Special-Ped-Districts-and-Site-Des-for-Peds.pdf (Accessed: 21 April 2015)

‘Colorful Vallage’ for older people in Hexam

colorful town


In this semester, we are going to design co-housing, social housing and private housing in Hexham. This is my first time to know about co-housing. Therefore, what is co-housing? Here, I will explain it briefly. It is more like approximately 20 to 30 dwellings will live together in the neighborhood which they can share common room with kitchen, dining room, laundry and children’s playroom. For common space, people do outdoor activities together, such as kicking a ball with others, having afternoon tea and a common vegetable garden and chickens. Cars are also not allowed get into the site.

Strat doing our design in Hexham, first, we analyse socio-economic in terms of aging, demands and properties. As we can see in the picture, the grey shaded areas for both males and females compare with the broken and the solid (England 2021) vertical lines. It shows that the higher populations proportions are older people who are aged 50 and above. So in our design we decide to make neighborhood for older people. After that, we found people in Hexham need 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom houses on Homefinder. That makes our mind to design more 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom house in our site.



Nowadays, older people feel loneliness and their children have less time to take care of them. Older people have less communicate with other people when they at home. Therefore, how to deal with this phenomenon? Co-housing is one of way to solve. Senior cohousing communities let older people live independently together. They can help each other by cooking in the common room, or taking care of each other when they are ill(Fromm & Jong, 2009). Senior cohousing will meet needs of older people, the physical design of the homes and the place where is accessible and ease of use are addressed by common house (Silverberg, 2010). Here are some layouts for common house:

common house


In our design, thinking of safety and health for older people, we divided car and pedstrain road. However, I think there are some drawbacks in this system:

1. Residential environment is not good

2. Security zones at corner

3. Occuoied area too large

4. Unsafe places

5. Commercial facilities without traffic support will give its economic benefits greatly

6. People who drive home will feel the area is boring because of the monotonous paths



  1. Fromm, D., & de Jong, E. (2009). Community and health: Immigrant senior cohousing in the Netherlands. Communities, 145, 50-53.
  2. Silverberg, K. (2010, October 1). ‘Cohousing’ adds options for a diverse aging population. Herald-Tribune, p. A.8.

Experience in the blog

use blogs


I am so glad that I have an opportunity to direct and write my own blog which about my major on the website. In my opinion, firstly, writing blog is an important part of who I am as an expert in my field. I can use this space to share resources with many people who are interested in my area, reflect on my own practice and try to figure out how to be a better planner. Secondly, it is my public reflection on experience including what I study in Newcastle University, life in UK and my thoughts.

Thinking about when you were in school. You write an essay. Who read it? Most likely the tutor and that is where it ended. You pour hours and hours into reflections on Urban Agriculture in UK, the economic and political effects on society or some issues about urban regeneration have evolved over time, yet the only person who read your thoughts are the tutors. Maybe you shared with a close friend or even the class. But generally the world was unaware of your thoughts and feelings.

Nevertheless, by writing blogs, I can get immediate feedback on an idea that I want to develop further. Having an outside perspective and a little bit of constructive criticism is invaluable. When I write more posts and share more of my experiences, somebody will visit my site and sees the insights I have shared on a subject, also it will be clear that I am an expert in the field. It is a way that leads me to search for new information and share it with my readers. In addition, a blog is an expressive medium that can contain words, images, and videos. I can use my blogs to express myself.

Many people think the hardest part of becoming a blogger is getting started, but that part is easy. However, the hard part I think is setting up your blog in such a way that you can keep it updated regularly. Like practically everything else on the web, blogs are easy to start and hard to maintain. Writing coherently is one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks for me to undertake. Therefore, far from blogs being a cheap strategy, they are a very expensive one, in that they eat up time. As a result, many blogs are not updated, thus damaging rather than enhancing the reputation of the organization.

In the second semester, I am going to explore how I can become an active blogger by exploring ways to keep my blog constantly active. In other words how to be creative and inspired on a reliable enough basis to be able to maintain an active blog. I want to become a better writer. ‘The more you blog, the more you write – and the better writer you become’. Of course, that’s exactly what an active blogger spends time on doing. Moreover, I will try to use some interesting headlines instead of boring states. I think a good headline will attract more readers at first. And I will try my best to post some photos that taken by myself.

This is end of my first semester in MA Urban Design, I hope that all the readers will enjoy my posts and I will do my best to write some more blogs in next semester.

Low congestion and walkable urban

10 Busiest Junctions in the world


Planning policy has changed to help transition cities into more walkable, dense urban forms. But what about for those of us who drive? Is it really possible to have both? The Complete Streets concept tries to take the focus off one over the other, promoting balance. It is perhaps one of the better branded ideas in urban transport planning in the last quarter century. A complete street is a street that tries to provide pedestrians, cyclists, transits, and cars with facilities all on the same street.

The problem is there usually isn’t enough space on the road for everyone. Typically this means taking space away from cars to “re-balance” the situation and improve conditions for other users. Sometimes it’s possible to fix traffic light timing or undertake creative lane re-configurations to keep cars moving at the same rate, but many of these practices have already been exploited. And so, the perceived “war on cars” persists. For progressives who favour sustainable travel, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. Urban dwellers who travel by car regularly may think otherwise.

Can low congestion and walkable urban context co-exist?

We can’t do both:

A city can provide people with a beautiful shaded sidewalk, but it doesn’t mean people will use it. It’s not simply a matter of making non-car travel attractive, but recognizing that people select their mode of travel through relative comparison with other options. The more a city improves driving conditions, the easier it will be for people to stay in their cars.

Tram at Nottingham

Tram in Nottingham


Tomtom’s congestion index indicates a number of the cities with high congestion ratings , such as Vancouver, San Francisco, Stockholm, Stuttgart, New York and so on. What it doesn’t indicate is that these many of these cities have viable and attractive alternatives to getting into traffic. On the flip side, cities with low congestion seem to exhibit very high levels of car use. The 10 least congested cities ranked all had more than 93% of daily trips done by car.

According to Jonas Eliasson with the Center for Transport Studies (Stockholm), every day people make new decisions. Policymakers around the world are pushing the envelope to make sustainable travel modes more attractive. But if the rate of making improvements for driving is relatively the same, it’s only serving to undermine sustainable transport policies.


Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Stockholm Center for Transport Studies, various transport mode share statistical sources, Tomtom’s congestiong index

Public spaces in contemporary Roma



In this Christmas holiday, I had a trip in Roma. It is quite common, walking around the central area of Rome, to meet busy and lively public spaces.

This should not be a novelty or a strangeness. Italian squares and piazzas are well known as typical examples of public urban spaces. Worldwide planners and architects are formed on the idea that Italian piazzas, such as ‘Piazza San Marco’ in Venice and‘Piazza del Campo’ in Siena, represent the perfect example of public space where inhabitants transform the physical space of the city in public arena. What are the elements which determine the success of urban public spaces? Which are the practices that characterize these spaces?




Piazza del Campo

Piazza del Campo


It is true that some of spaces are not used and populated, instead, they should deserve some reflection. As a consequence, the persistence of space and the typology of space in the contemporary city will determine the successful urban public spaces. In addition, it is possible to encounter many public spaces that are used by inhabitants as social arenas for their meetings and for their social activities in Rome. These spaces have changed over time and some of them are today characterized by a significant presence of commerce and are mainly used as consumption sites while some others are still free from any commercial presence and are used as public arenas in many and diverse manners. Public space still represents a basic place of encounter and of exchange where people learn and acquire the capacity to cope with each other and it is still the place where tolerance can be learned. Public spaces as meeting points, the type and sociality that they host make spaces the principal social area of the city.

Looking for another study that how the church as a dominant type of Rome led to the historical formation of the urban plan, while the piazza transformed from a religious to a secular public space. The open fields in Rome, demarcated as urban by the Aurelian wall, crystallised in Medieval Rome into autonomous centres of growth, when the erection of a church defined both a religious inner and secular outer space: the piazza. It subsequently created a network of inwards looking radial growth centres, of independent cities-within-the-city. These however lacked hierarchy and with a secularisation of the city, new planning instruments were required. The Renaissance street replaced the church as the formative urban element and restructured the city according to new political and administrative boundaries. The streets cut open existing, dense fabric and connected points of significance where no urbanity yet existed, establishing new urban lines and restructuring the city as a series of scenographic processions, often visually marked by monuments. While previously the piazza was defined as an exteriorisation of the church, the church had become a landmark or an element subservient to the public space.





1. The Expulsion from Public Space (2012) Available at: http://projectivecities.aaschool.ac.uk/portfolio/marcin-ganczarski-the-expulsion-from-public-space/

2. Postiglione M. (2013) ‘Looking at public spaces in contemporary Rome: an anthropological perspective on the study of cities’, Academicus : International Scientific Journal, Vol.MMXIII(7), p.117

3. http://everythingabya.wordpress.com/tag/rome/

Living in a Gated Community

gated community


When you think of a gated community, what comes to mind? Probably things like safety, security, exclusivity, expensive homes, and more. But what else lies behind those gates?

When choosing a home, it’s very important to consider the surrounding neighbourhood as well as the home itself. Each neighbourhood has its own characteristics including degree of safety, crime and physical appearance. While some neighbourhoods can cause a home’s value to fall, others, such as gated communities, help homes resist market trends and retain value over time.


The term gated community simply refers to any type of neighbourhood that has controlled access using one or more gate that residents or visitors must pass through. Some have a guard booth with a security staff to ensure that only residents pass the gate, while others use an automatic gate that residents must open with a key card or remote control. Most gated communities have a name and a clear geographic definition as marked by the barriers and gates that control access to the area. Gated communities may exist in any location including cities, towns and rural areas. They also range in size from a few homes to several dozen.


Besides safety, gated communities offer other advantages to residents. Only the residents have access to public areas, which may include parks and sports facilities like tennis courts and a community pool. Gated communities in cities may encourage residents who would otherwise live in the suburbs to become urban dwellers, which can help with urban redevelopment. Many gated communities consist of luxury homes and high-income residents, which can make living in a gated community serve as a status symbol.

Money buys freedom

                                  Money buys freedom



Not all gated communities offer the level of safety residents may expect. Unauthorized access is available to anyone who disables a gate or poses as a visitor, and communities with lax security may be no safer than surrounding neighborhoods. They can even become targets of criminals who expect the homes inside to include more valuable possessions. A gated community can also promote a general feeling of social paranoia, implying that other parts of the area are unsafe and the gated community is necessary to protect residents. Finally, gated communities may cost residents more than comparable homes in the region that aren’t gated, regardless of any real benefits.


  1. Barcelona Field Studies Centre: Gates Community Pros and Cons Available at: http://geographyfieldwork.com/GatedCommunities.htm
  2. Real Estate ABC: Pros and Cons of Gated Communities Available at: http://www.realestateabc.com/insights/gated.htm
  3. USA Today: Gated Communities More Popular, and Not Just for the RIch Available at:http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-12-15-gated-usat_x.htm

Neither Landscape Nor Urbanism?

landscape urbanism


What is landscape urbanism? Is it a method, a practice, or a result? Why has landscape urbanism appeared to grow so strongly over the past decade, and why is it critical now?


Landscape Urbanism is a theory of urban planning arguing that the best way to organize cities is through the design of the city’s landscape, rather than the design of its buildings.

A method, a practice, or a result?

The development of landscape urbanism as a theory and practice is the result of an evolving body of work by a number of people. In the 1870s, forefathers of landscape architecture such as Fredrick Law Olmsted and Ebenezer Howard demonstrated how the many environmental problems that plagued American cities could be mitigated by planned open space which served both infrastructural and recreational purposes. In the 1960s, Ian McHarg wrote Design with Nature, the first book to describe an ecologically sound approach to the planning and design of communities. However, it was not until the late 1990s that Charles Waldheim popularized the term landscape urbanism. In his 2006 book, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Waldheim defines the term as follows: “Landscape urbanism describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism.”

Why is it critical now?

A number of reasons are apparent, relating to economy, collaboration, and authentic design.

Economy. In light of the recent economic downturn, traditional economics of construction are severely challenged, resulting in numerous stalled developments within and on the edges of cities. They range in scale from gap sites to district-size wastelands, and are weighed down by debt and unrealizable value—their function and usefulness appear lost.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, plans to transform post-industrial waterfront land into high-density neighborhoods have foundered: the sites repossessed by banks from bankrupt developers and left to quietly recover. These are places which appear quite different from the ideas of the polished and different “new towns” of the post-war period, yet are critical to the future evolution and consolidation of the city. If it is no longer economically viable to create new cities and towns, nor feasible to abandon cities with shrinking densities, what, then, is to be done with these stalled sites?

Collaboration across disciplines and communities. The ever-increasing pressure on other, natural, forms of resource also dictates a change in the way we think about urbanism and buildings. A renewed environmental responsibility has arisen, but we must translate these into significantly different approaches within the traditionally conservative construction and development sector. The current inability or unwillingness to consider the impact of unconfined development on natural processes must be challenged; better engagement on these issues across disciplines and across communities will be critical. The past era of nonchalance with regard to the environment is returning to haunt us, with the impacts increasingly becoming visible. Construction on floodplains, escalating surface runoff due to increased impermeable surfaces, and an increasingly homogeneity of amenity plantings cumulatively impact our city’s hydrological systems, ecological habitats, and our ability to identify and associate with natural elements in our built environment.

Drawing out the invisible. Beyond the prosaic and constructive side of landscape urbanism—and perhaps the strongest rationale for its longevity— there is the imaginative and poetic side to landscape: the ability to tease out invisible systems and make them part of our consciousness.

As design professionals practicing in the twenty-first century, we must reduce the energy demands of our designs, increase efficiencies, and integrate renewable energy. But beyond these planet-saving technical measures, we must ensure that new and revived urban areas are still places that g celebrate the intrinsic qualities of a site: landscape urbanism has the potential to bring out the hidden, the unknown and the delightful for those who inhabit these places. These abilities and processes will make landscape urbanism an ethos that appeals to professionals and people beyond the field.


1. McHarg.L (1994) Design with nature. 25th anniversary edNew York : J. Wiley.

2. Waldheim. C (c2006) The landscape urbanism reader. New York : Princeton Architectural Press

Thinking about UA and Economics in regeneration of South Shields



From the masterplan of South Shields starting to now, I try my best to explore what is this project’s main aims. Firstly, I develop an understanding and the ability to evaluate in physical and social environment. And also improve my understanding of the nature and processes of urban regeneration, development and design. Finally, I think it is a big challenge for me to develop precedents of urban agriculture.

Writing this blog, I am going to summarize something about urban agriculture and social economic that reflected by our tutors last week in our regeneration project. Now, let me present what urban agriculture and social economic are like in our project. When we start our design, it is hard for us to think about urban agriculture, because we have no concept of agriculture in the real city. Then we had a trip to visit urban agriculture. This is very useful for me to built a concept of what is urban agriculture like. Meanwhile, we searched some case studies to learn more about agriculture. Through case study, I found that UA could really bring more benefit for local people. In terms of economic, I searched on the website about south shields benefits and unemployment statistics, age distribution statistics and general health statistics. I found that in this area, firstly, the rate of unemployment in South Shields is both higher than the average for and higher than the national average, suggesting that finding a job in this area maybe hard. Secondly, the population of South Shields is also older than the average, making South Shields a older persons location. Lastly, the percentage of residents in South Shields rating their health as ‘very good’ is less than the national average. Also the percentage of residents in South Shields rating their health as ‘very bad’ is more than the national average, suggesting that the health of the residents of South Shields is generally worse than in the average person in England.

After tutorial, Aidan who is our economic teacher said it is well-done for us to consider about unemployment, elderly people and health in South Shields. How do we deal with these social problems is that we prepare to bring in a new industry – urban agriculture. Thinking about what our urban agriculture looks like? We just think about it will like a ‘agriculture belt’ which mainly build on the abandoned land. In agricultural industry, it contains scientific research, exhibition and education platform, training centre and experimental areas for different ages. Also, we think we need a place to show our achievement of agriculture. Therefore, we decide to put agriculture showcase into King Street which is the corridor connecting riverside and foreshore. Not only activate this commercial street, but show our agriculture achievements. We prepare to keep going on these two key points. Finally, both of teachers said we need to go on having a short term and a long term of the project and give more details about our project. Hence, we discuss about our short term and long term. We are going to integrate UA into several abandoned land with every small modules. These modules group together to provide space for people having activities. Also, local people will achieve work opportunities and have a good health after urban agriculture built. We think it will be a clear vision of South Shields.



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