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Xu, Miao
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Against the backdrop of market transition and urbanisation, the gated community have gained a strikingly fast growth in China in the last two decades. Looking at the key forces shaping the design and the socio-spatial consequences, this research aims to understand the design issues of gated community with respect to the well-being of the neighbouring public spaces and urban life in-between. From the perspective of spatial political economy, and based on Manuel Castells's definition of 'urban design', this study develops a research framework emphasizing the significance of context around the gated community phenomenon. A two-phase strategy is adopted to explore firstly the historical background of gated community in China with respect to the general morphological transformation and the socio-cultural and political-economic impetus behind it. Then, it narrows the focus on to a case study of a set of gated communities in the Dragon Lake Garden urban neighbourhood in Chongqing, aiming to examine in detail the design process and consequences for local public spaces. The specific methods of documentary analysis, secondary survey, direct observation, semi-structured interview are used for this research. It was the reform towards commodity housing system, and fundamentally, the de facto neo-liberal governance, that decisively gave birth to China's gated community in an era of rapid urbanisation, rural-to-urban mass migration, widening gap and confrontation between the rich and poor. But the conventional roots help account for the prevalence of the gated community in contemporary China, which embodies, or re-interprets, the traditional values, habitat culture, and morphologies that are deeply embedded in Chinese urban history. As the laissez-faire attitude in local authorities has created a favourable context for gated community development, the specific physical features have been decided largely by the developers who emphasize their own economic interests and the needs of their member-residents. However, this private-oriented approach does not necessarily result in a negative relationship between gated community and the neighbouring public spaces. The empirical investigation in this research shows that both spatial-morphological and socio-behavioural outcomes vary greatly according to different physical arrangements, and could be either positive or negative. In this regard, the design features have played an effective role in manipulating such relationship, and there are three key elements for the design of gated community. By limiting the enclosure size, diversifying the boundary effect visually and functionally, and maximising the shared amenities and facilities, a spatially and socially integrated urban neighbourhood can be fostered on the basis of a reciprocal and interdependent relationship between the gated community and the adjoining public spaces. Such physical manipulation and changes, although oriented to the public good, were not contradictory to the private interest of gated communities by nature. The private effort in this case should be encouraged and supported, but it should also be supervised and guided by the public sector. Therefore, sufficient supervision/support from government is the prerequisite of the successful physical manipulation and the final performance of the gated community development at large. Unfortunately, the local government failed to take a leading role in this regard. Very often, it was the failings or inactions on the part of the current planning regime rather than the gated community itself that resulted in the fragmented urban space which amplified the negative impacts of gated communities.
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