ISSUES2016 No.4
Editor’s Note: Since the turn of the new millennium, along with the proceeding of the housing system reform and the development of the housing market, there appeared a debate in China, firstly in the field of urban planning and design, on the transformation of its housing morphology from traditional large scale residential areas to modern small scale housing blocks, in hope of shaping the physical environment of new urban development more adaptable to the new circumstances of market economy. Early 2016, this debate was widely expanded to become a heated topic in both the academia and the society of China, when the Central Government issued a guideline on urban planning, following the Central Urban Work Conference in December 2015, which advocates the opening-up of some roads in gated residential communities to public road system and the development of housing blocks that are “open and convenient with human scales and complete facilities as harmonious neighborhood.” The contemporary concepts of large scale residential area and small scale housing block are both introduced to China from other countries during the periods of planned economy and market economy respectively, which apparently are based on different socio-economic systems, follow different urban philosophies, and have different physical characters, as well as lead to different urban patterns. They both have specific advantages and disadvantages, thus it is not so easy to judge at this moment that which one is better than the other or which one could better adapt to today’s China. For example, although the traditional large scale residential area, typically represented by the Big-Yard compounds built up during the period of planned economy by Danweis, and the super blocks developed since the 1990s as well, is badly criticized for blocking the urban traffic and collectivizing the public facilities and public spaces, its characters of mixed land use, multiple urban functions, and diversified social spectrums, as well as a certain level of job-housing balance and a strong sense of community, are all the key factors for sustainable development. While on the other hand, although the small scale housing block has the advantages of being open to the public road system to facilitate urban traffic and having humanism scales to create a system of public space, the character of small scale makes it difficult to accommodate mixed land use and multiple urban functions to be a self-sustained complete community. Taking that into consideration, broad social debates and strict academic analyses, as well as well-planned experimental practices, are in great need in China for exploring the final judgment.

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