It has been more than half year since I started use blog to share the my understandings
of the articles I read, the events I participated and the experienced I had about urban design. Firstly, I terms of time management of uploading blog, I performed a bad time management. Theses blogs are not regularly uploaded however instead, they are generally uploaded at the last minute. As I mentioned in my last summary, I was personally not tend to chose blog as an approach to represent and summaries my understandings and experiences about urban design. However, such feeling is charging or has been changed since I received some comments below he blog I have uploaded, which is also the first advantage I would like to raise about using blog.
Blog is a place where participants communicate with each other by leaving comments and replying comments. Such form is neither as formal as debate nor as informal as chat. Leave comments and reply comments is firstly a respect to the author. Meanwhile, communicate by such means could record the details literally, which could help to better understand what does the reader mean and could help for future sues. It could be seen a way to record what we thought on one argument at that time. Besides, these positive communications could also bounds our urban design group together as such approach encourages more communication among the groups.
The second main advantage I would like to say is sharing. Including communication, sharing blogs with other is not only the way that the author knows how others think about the same thing, but also a way to touch with a wider knowledge. We urban design students are usually from different background such as planning, architecture, and landscape. We from different knowledge background nevertheless a design project always require a teamwork of all these backgrounds. Therefore, knowing how people from different but relevant background, understanding the way they think, the experiences they have, and the projects they praise is a way of learning itself. The combination of communication and sharing could help us to build up a knowledge pool and benefits for our further developments.
Blogging, thirdly, itself is a way of encouraging use social media. I am from planning background, the use of using social media is always the means we used to communicate with stakeholders, and to deliver our thoughts to them. In the case of myself, blogging could force myself try all the ways to communicate with others, which could also be seen as a practice of how to better communicate with stakeholders and how to better understand them.
At last, as this reflection itself, blogging is an approach to reflect ourselves. For example, we will always have a first impression and basic design concept when we start to do a project, however, such impressions and concept might be changed a lot of times as we understand the area better and deeper. Blogging is a similar way of reflecting and improving our thoughts on one specific thing as it literal records all the footprints I had upon a same thing.
There is one more semester to go, and I believe I will better use blog as a way of study. Although we do not have submit blog as our assignment, nevertheless, as I mentioned before, all the blogs and comments we wrote will be our knowledge pool.


When we urban designers start to design a site, we will generally be required to understand the place at the very early stage. However, what shall we look at? what should be experienced from the site?

Refer to these questions, Christian Norberg-Schultz (in Larice and MaCdonald (ed.), 2013 (2nd)) used Georg Trakl`s (1914) poem “A Winter Evening”:
“When the snow falls against the window,
The evening bell rings long,
The table is prepared for many,
And the house is well cultivated.

Some in their wanderings
Come to the gate on dark paths.
The tree of grace blooms golden
From the earth’s cool sap.

Wanderer, step silently inside;
Pain has petrified the threshold.
There in pure radiance
Bread and wine glow upon the table.”
This poem using the daily used items and words such as the “house”, “path”, “Tree” to represent a imaginary place. Norberg-Schultz believes that in this phenomenon, the identification between private and public is blur as the private insides are also part of public outsides. The private and public is thus produces a public totality. Based on such understanding, the structure of a place could be simplified as “landscape” and “settlement”, which, in other words, is “space” and “character”. Norberg-Schultz summarises these as genius loci, which could also be understood as the identity of the area.

Refer to our reality, when we start doing a project. understanding the area always require a detailed observation and direct feeling. In terms of observations, a wide range of settlements are needed such as building types, materials, resources distribution, topography, water, trees and so on. Direct feelings could be lifestyle, how people talk, activities, views from different angles and so on. These elements and information collected could help us to build up a genius loci. Genius loci is not necessarily to be changed with the physical changes of local settlement, it is the identity of the area. Therefore, it is important to put genius loci in priority as it is always where our design concept comes from.



Norberg-Schultz, C., “The Phenomenon of Place”, in Larice, M., and MaCdonald, E (ed), 2013, “The Urban Design Reader (2nd)“, Routledge: London

Trakl, G., 1914, “A Winter Evening“[Online], Available at: [Accessed at 17th May 2015].


I talked sustainable development in my last blog, which I understand is a wide topic. Therefore, I will continue with the exploration of sustainable development. I will however more focus on the relationship between city and nature this time and try to explore such relationship from a metabolic way.
City is the area where we humanity mainly lives, and nature is more the area where we gain resources for our developments. Marx and Engels (1865) stated in their “German Ideology”, which defines the relationship between city and nature as metabolism, in other words, material interchange. Material exchange as the relationship between human and nature is regulated and controlled by human labour and nature. Therefore, social character could be understood as the reproduction. Namely, we can treated city as a human body which absorb materials from nature and release wastes. Consequently, the way that could block the process of metabolism could also been seen as the way which could break sustainable development, which could generally called ‘rift’.

It is hard to define what is a rift. Nevertheless, if we review city as human body, over consumptions might be one major rift. For example, urbanisation requires huge amount of land. Once lands have largely lost their productivity, a rift would therefore resulted. Also, over lumbering could cause de-forestation, once bio-diversity has largely decreased, a rift might thus be resulted.

Such understanding could also be applied on urban design. Once we started with a project, it is always important and necessary to understand the area from all the aspects. To treat the area as a human body, to learn how its metabolism works and exams how many materials should be gain and how many wastes should be release.A positive metabolism, or sustainable development is always the development which could find the balance between material exchanges.

Marx, K., and Engels, F., 1865, “The German Ideology“, Lawrence @ Wishart: London


Sustainable development is the aim that developments always try to achieve. However a true sustainable development is always argued as impossible to be achieved as it require the balance among social aspects, political aspects and environment aspects and could meet the future demands.
Cohousing is always be argued as an utopian, or a way of sustainable development as well. It offers opportunities achieve a social mix, it provides affordable housing in a high environmental friendly standards and residents have opportunities to design their own community.
Cohousing therefore reminds me my field trip to the Netherlands two years ago. I visited a semi-gated community which was surrounded by three story detached houses. These formed a square in the middle and shared this square as a privately owned public yard. Residents designed this yard themselves with a lovely landscape and community garden and feed animals such as chickens. Residents there also refurbished their own houses which assisted this community more sense of belongings. As local residents said they meet up regularly for community meetings, they have dinner and BBQ together in the shared yard regularly, they support with each other and take care of each other.


Such community largely shares similar life style with cohousing community. However, Issues also existed with this community. The main issue with them was the conflicts with the surrounding communities. As residents said, the surrounding communities were in similar life style with them which represented strong sense of community as well.

Such issue bring us the consideration on potential conflicts between cohousing groups and surrounding communities. Although cohousing community is always not a gated or semi gated community, it, however, has clear physical or visual boundaries. The lifestyle of cohousing community could also result stronger sense of community than normal communities. Therefore, a potential invisible barrier might be resulted between cohouing community and the rest.

In general, I will say it might be problematic to say cohousing development is a sustainable development due to above social considerations. However, from the design aspects, is there any ways to enhance the social connections between cohousing communities and surrounding communities? If so, will cohouing become a sustainable development?



Cohousing as a way of living concerns more about community and people. Residents have their regular private home with normal stuff and they have more shared space and facilities such as workshop, common room and gardens. Cohousing is always a supportive community which also offers greater opportunities for residents to design their own home. QQ图片20150518013747source:

Therefore, design in a cohousing community is always important not only because it it community made discussions, but also because it requires more consideration on key issues such as the balance of privacy and public, children security, and affordability. Common housing in a cohousing community is always the place where reflects the community demands. A whole community participation is always required in designing a common house. One fundamental design principles for common house is to offer a kitchen and dining room which can adopt large group of people cooking and eating together. The rest of rooms could be designed for other uses that are in demands such as guest room, baby care, studio, workshop, library and craft room. In general, common room should where to stay local residents and to meeting the local demands.

However, serious considerations as mentioned above should also be taken into account when designing a cohousing community. In order to achieve a balance between privacy and public, landscaping is always a mean to weaken the conflicts. landscaping in a cohousing community is always where gathering people as meeting point and talk to each other. It is also a physical and visual barrier to keep the privacy. Children need to be secured by designing the playgroup in the middle and surrounded by all housing units for neighbours` seeing. Cohousing requires affordability as well. Reuse of local materials using solar panels. Smaller house is also required as it costs less needs less energy.

Designing a cohousing community not only require considerations of designing a normal housing type but also further needs more considerations on other elements such as greater social sense, and management.


Cohousing as a way of living together has been introduced to the world. It has been understood as an approach of organising domestic living arrangements. The concept of cohousing was originally started in Nordic Europe as a ‘first wave’ and developed in North America as a ‘second wave’. Lucy Sargisson focused on and explored what is and why cohousing in the ‘second wave’ in the article of Cohousing: A Utopian Property Alternative?, as they are more researched, more rapidly grew and cohousing in two waves are largely differ from each other.

The concept of cohousing could be hard to be defined. However, from a researchers` view, cohousing is physically featured with common facilities, private dwellings, resident-structured routines, resident management, design for social contact, resident participation in development process, and pragmatic objectives. From practitioners` view, cohousing is a lifestyle which escapes typical urban life which is characterised with alienated, un-neighbourly, and making inefficient use of social resources and potential.

With such understanding, a survey has be processed in order to explore a successful cohousing development which reveal significant cohesion, representing a set of common structures and highly-valued behaviours and attitudes. Meanwhile, three main findings have be represented. Environment is the first feature as a good environment could always support cohousing movement. According to the survey, conservation, sustainability and use of resources are the patterns that all suggest pragmatic, practical concerns for environment. Common structural facilities is researched as another factor which facilitate the desired community dynamic. All the participated cohousing development show similarities on including some commonly-owned facilities and most are intentionally designed to facilitate social interaction. Such feature requires two perspectives, which are design process itself and the physical outcomes of the process. Such requirements result a reflection of cohousing experience on some physical patterns such as layout of roads, paths and outdoor space, location of parking area, homes, community buildings, and other premises.

Structural features also include economic and social aspects. The term ‘community’ has been mentioned frequently which includes social diversity, shared meals, regular meetings and a ‘labour commitment’. Patterns of sharing, participation and giving are most important in this consideration. These experiences suggest that a combination of physical and social design for community could therefore result a cohousing development which people feel safer, more supported collectively responsible and engaged with their local environment.

Property always play a significant role in cohousing. A distinctive attitude to property is always the main difference between cohousing and others. Property could form part of the cohousing critique of society as well as part of its vision of a better life. It has been as an approach to solve the issue of social isolation as it encourages residents to go to public space to share with others. Private individual ownership could encourage a particular urban relationship which isolated social life. In this case, the collective ownership, and use of space and land provided by cohousing lifestyle has been seen as an approach to solve of such problem as it offers a certain freedom.

Such understandings bring a consideration on whether cohousing could offer alternatives to mainstream property relationship. The view of the collective ownership of cohousing means land is possession, it is owned and can thus be used, changed, and developed based on local demands. However, it does not mean private ownership and individual ownership should be ended. Cohousing in Nordic are always state funds project. Due to the ownership of land belongs to the state and more rental space are available, cohousing in Nordic could has higher proportion for rental housing which result a salutation for social housing. In terms of ideology, cohousing in second wave is always seen as value-free and non-ideological. However, cohousing is suggested to has a core and shared value as environmental conscious, seeking a vision of community which featured with social diversity, personal integrity, responsibility, and honesty.

Reflection of Using Blog

Using blog posts to represent personal thoughts of the knowledges I have learnt is a totally new approach I have ever tried. Since I was not used to such socialised means, it was challenging for me to start with. The blog posts I have done are, still, not like telling stories in person but more like academic essay. However, the experiences on blogging show that it could help a lot on studying.

The first benefit of using blog is share. Blog is a place where everyone can participate in and share their own experiences. Study on urban design or relevant subjects always require a wide reading and abundant on different cases all over the world. Due to the time limit, the ability of reading and experiencing of an individual is often limited as well. However, with the assist of blog, people could share their own experiences and interesting cases they have found. Especially, people sharing these experiences are always studying and interested in similar fields that you are studying. These kind of experiences are always more helpful for future study. Meanwhile, in some cases, two or more people might interested in a same case, it could also provide a good opportunity to know and share what someone else think about this case and is there any special aspects that I have not considered yet.

The second advantage of using blog is communicating. In terms of communicating, blog delivers two main communicating approaches. The first one is using comments. Similar with blogging, comments is an approach to know other people`s thoughts on what you have posted, which could provide a more comprehensive understanding on one specific topic. On the other hand, blog itself is a communicating means. We designers, planners and architects are always seek some direct, simple and understandable ways to deliver our design proposes to the public. I am not saying blogging is an efficient for all these delivery, but it bring us a consideration on what is the most efficient way to deliver what we want to tell the public. Blog itself is an entertaining social tool. The form of blog does not have to be pure words or as boring as professional texts and diagrams, video, optional texts and diagrams, Q&As, are all acceptable on blog. It is more socialised and more acceptable to the public, namely, blog is a more accessible communication platform. Besides, blog could be participated by more people who is not from similar background with you, namely, these people are from the public. Hence, their opinions are actually the responses we are looking for.

The use of blog will be continued. Although, at this stage, not all the functions of blog have been used well. Blog is more a daily life social tool to optionally record any thoughts you what to share with others and listen other people`s opinions. It could be seen as lots of people are helping you on your study on blog. Therefore, the higher  frequency blog has been used, a wider knowledge you might learnt.

Cycle Development in the UK – Security first?


Cycle paths development in urban design has been put more attention recently in order to deliver a concept of healthy lifestyle and sustainable development. However, cycle paths in the UK seems less developed especially compare with other Euro countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland. According to statistics, the UK spends ₤2 per person per year on cycling which compare with ₤24 per person per year in the Netherlands.


Figure: Percentage of Children Cycling to School in Different Countries.

One possible reason of such trend in the UK could because of the heritage and culture. The planning system in the UK tends to keep the historical characteristics of places. Many developments are always required to maintain and redevelop such old buildings and streets. Meanwhile, lots of streets in the UK`s Cities are often two narrow for designing cycle paths. Meanwhile, cycling in the UK is always seen as unsafe transport tool. Cyclists are generally unwelcome on streets.


Figure 2: A comparison of Cycle routes in Euro and the UK


On cycle route in Dorset shire is famous as its wider than the vehicle rout. The designer states that when cyclists try to cycle the bike, the power they used might make them rocking, which could be very dangerous to the safety.


Figure3: Wider Cycle Route in Dorset shire


A currently cycle route development in London proposed a sky cycle route above the train station. The designer states that road network within central London is not suitable for proposing cycle routes as there are no spaces. With the safety consideration and local needs, it seems more appropriate to design a cycle route ‘in the sky’.


Figure4: Proposed Skycycle in London


Therefore, such phenomenon brings us a consideration how to design a cycle path in a UK City. It seems a trend that more neighbourhood design in the UK put cycle routes into consideration. However, the cycle routes design in a city or town centre might be different. The sky cycle provides a solution on solving the conflict between cycle paths and existing traffic network, nevertheless, the costs of such construction is extremely high, which means still not suitable for low investment project.

Urban Regeneration – Why? and How?


Since more cities are experiencing different issues, such as environmental degradation and economic crisis, urban regeneration is treated as an efficient approach to address these issues and meet the local needs. Regeneration is always considered as using active interventions to process changes in specific places. Two successful regeneration projects on Newcastle Gateshead Quayside will be introduced here to explore urban regeneration.

Due to the de-industrialisation, and the closure of coal mining, Newcastle-Gateshead was negatively influenced. As a result, large population has lost during such period, some social and environmental issues, at the same time, were increase rapidly. Especially the quayside, due to the water population and decline of industries, has became the places that no one would like to go (Graaf, 2009). The area was thus depressed and dead. In the nineties, both city councils of Newcastle and Gateshead decided to establish a partnership and using culture power to bring people back and followed with several approaches to solve environmental pollution. Remarkable changes were therefore progressed on quayside with millions of pounds investment from public and private. The Baltic contemporary Art Gallery, The Sage Gateshead Music Centre, and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge were consequently built and developed as landmarks of this city. These changes brought a new life to the city and more people, especially creative people were attracted by these creative and artistic development.

Another current regeneration on Newcastle quayside is the lower Ouseburn Valley Regeneration, which aims at addressing the de-centralisation and bring the middle-high income group move back to city centre to encourage the local economic. Such regeneration mainly tend to deliver a housing development on the previous low density with satisfactory surrounding environment. A sustainable neighbourhood was proposed with great river view. Meanwhile, existing local residents are put into consideration as well, namely, a social mix is proposed to be achieved by providing social housing.

Reference: Graaf. V. D., 2009, “Out of Place? Emotional ties to the neighbourhood in urban renewal in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom”, Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research


Self-motivated Urban Agriculture in Chinese City – A Derivative of Urban Sprawl

As a developing concept of urban agriculture, it is always treated as an approach to address several existing urban issues such as meeting the needs of food consumption, optimising the environment, enhance the sense of community, and offering job opportunities. In general, urban agriculture could be understood as integrate agriculture into within or around city area to fit with urban social, economic, and ecological system. It is playing a increasingly important role in many cities` planning system and design guidances. However, the application of urban agriculture in China seems more rough and self-motivated.

In most developed cities in China, urban sprawl is progressing some significant changes in suburban and out-suburban areas. One of the most important is that the                    pre-exist separate houses for farmers have been transformed into gated community with high raise flats. Meanwhile, lots of agricultural lands have been occurred for service sector developments. Although such physical changes have had happened, local residents, however, are always hard to get used to the lifestyle of citizens`. They still tend to keep the a farming lifestyle. Therefore, lots of open spaces in such gated communities are occurred by the residents and used as farming places.


Figure1: ‘Agriculture land’ in a gated community



Figure2: The gated community supposed to look like


Such changes of land used are generally not planned on the community master plan, which means they are mostly not allowed. Both Figure1 and Figure2 are taken from a same gated community which shows a major difference in terms of landscape. Such rough changes have been progressed are always because most of local residents share similar lifestyle and experiences. However, other local residents would might feel unfair as the proposed open spaces have been ‘privatised’ as farming land for specific residential groups. Meanwhile, the landscape and environmental enjoyment of such community is always thus been significantly damaged as the manures are always smelly.

Such urban agriculture could be defined as rough urban agriculture as they are always not well designed and planned. Some negative and inefficient impacts such as damaging the landscape, reducing local living amenity, limited contribution to food production, and low food security might always been caused. Namely, the emerge of  such urban agriculture is generally self-motivated and could be illegal.

Nevertheless, such social phenomenon also bring us a consideration on neighbourhood design and local planning system. A sustainable neighbourhood should be basically meet the local demands. The needs for these farmer-citizens on agriculture lands seem be ignored which consequently result such changes. Besides, local planning system also seems put less attention on such demands and also weak supervision, which could be another reason to resulting such chaos.

A possible solution has been provided in a gated community in Hangzhou. Due to the chaos caused by illegal agriculture land in community, further investment was thus be gained to development roof garden. Such roof gardens are well designed and all the categories of plants are chosen as ornamental flowers and fruit trees. Such approach resulted not only better landscape but also more social benefits.


Figure3: Roof Garden in a gated community in Hangzhou


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