DLA Research Seminar Series (Spring 2017)
12:45 am - 2:00 pm
Room 622, Knowles Building, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

Schedule: 17 March | 24 March | 21 April | 28 April |

Discussion Series Poster_Kao[1]Friday, March 17

Eco-urbanism vs. Climate Technologies:
The Fever of Zero-waste Neighborhood Experiments in Contemporary Chinese Cities

Shih-Yang Kao
Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Geography, The University of Hong Kong


The growing efforts to incorporate sustainable principles into the planning, design and the management cities in China will have profound implications not only for capitalism’s low-carbon transition, but also for the ongoing debates and inquiries about urban responses to climate change. And yet, few existing research on China’s recent “eco-urban turn” has looked beyond the so-called “eco-city fever” to test new hypotheses and theoretical propositions. In this presentation, I examine the fever of zero-waste neighborhood experiments, which, since 2009, has swept through major Chinese urban centers including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Chengdu. By revealing the close link that this fever has with the emerging NIABY (not-in-anyone’s-backyard) -styled anti-incineration campaigns, I call for an approach to eco-urbanism that is less deterministic and more sensitive toward contingencies and unintended consequences.


Shih-yang Kao is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geography at HKU. His research interests include the political ecology of China’s post-Mao urbanization, eco-urbanism, and the politics of urban solid waste management.

Schedule: 17 March | 24 March | 21 April | 28 April |

Friday, March 24 Discussion Series Poster_Campo

The Accidental Playground:
Undesigned Narratives of Public Space from Brooklyn and Beyond

Daniel Campo
Associate Professor, Program in City and Regional Planning, Department of Graduate Built Environment Studies, School of Architecture and Planning, Morgan State University


The emergence of accidental, insurgent or do-it-yourself parks on underutilized urban land challenges traditional notions of how to plan, design and administer public spaces. This lecture explores one such space, The Accidental Playground, an abandoned North Brooklyn waterfront (New York City) appropriated by enterprising citizens. While residents, activists, garbage haulers, real estate developers, speculators, and two city administrations fought over the fate of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), others simply took to this decaying edge, transforming it into a unique venue for leisure, creative, and everyday practices. Amid trash, ruins, weeds, homeless encampments, and the operation of an active garbage transfer station, they inadvertently created the “Brooklyn Riviera” and made this waterfront a destination that offered much more than its panoramic vistas of the Manhattan skyline.

Drawing on a rich mix of documentary strategies, this lecture probes this waterfront (and other similar postindustrial or post-maritime sites since its demise), allowing those who created it to share their own narratives, perspectives, and conflicts. The multiple constituencies of this waterfront were surprisingly diverse, their stories colorful and provocative. When taken together, they suggest a radical reimagining of urban parks and public spaces, and the practices by which they are created and maintained.


Daniel Campo is a New York City-based urbanist, and Associate Professor of City Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. His research explores informal, insurgent and do-it-yourself development practices and their intersection with professional urban planning, design and preservation. He is the author of The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned (Fordham University Press, 2013) and has published articles on a range of topics including urban design, public space studies, public art, history of the built environment, historic preservation, cultural geography, and American studies. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and was formerly a planner for the New York City Department of City Planning.

Schedule: 17 March | 24 March | 21 April | 28 April |

Friday, April 21Discussion Series Poster_Oakes

From Village-in-the-city to Villagized City:
Heritage Landscapes, Demolition, and Public Space in a Chinese Town

Timothy Oakes
Professor of Geography, Director of the Center for Asian Studies, University of Colorado; Visiting Professor, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong


This talk will discuss the rural ethnic heritage-inspired transformation of the built environment of a relatively small county town in China, exploring the ways ethnic heritage is being recast by local leaders as a resource for tourism-oriented revenue generation and for ‘improving’ the ‘quality’ and behaviour of town residents. I will focus on the ways residents have appropriated and inhabited this new villagized city as they go about their everyday urban lives, arguing that while the town’s transformation has generated a new sense of urban modernity among residents, their ways of inhabiting and using urban space have little relevance to the heritagized environment in which they now live.

Timothy Oakes is Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. His research focuses on China’s regional cultural development, culture industries, tourism, heritage, and place-based identities. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, he is the author of Tourism and Modernity in China (1998), and co-editor of several volumes, including Translocal China (2006), Travels in Paradox (2006), Reinventing Tumpu: Cultural Tourism and Social Change in Guizhou (in Chinese, 2007), The Cultural Geography Reader (2008), Faiths on Display (2010), Real Tourism (2011) and Making Cultural Cities in Asia: Mobility, Assemblage, and the Politics of Aspirational Urbanism (2016).

Schedule: 17 March | 24 March | 21 April | 28 April |

Friday, April 28

Gold Reef City and Shareworld
Pleasure Landscapes in the Mining Belt of Johannesburg

Dorothy Tang
Assistant Professor, Division of Landscape Architecture, The University of Hong Kong


The Gold Reef City Complex in Johannesburg includes an amusement park that opened in 1986, a casino, and the Apartheid Museum. It is one of the singular landmarks that urban residents still associate with the city’s gold-mining history, and possesses the last operating mining shaft that takes tourists underground in Johannesburg. Less known is the short-lived Shareworld, an amusement park not far from Gold Reef City, which marketed itself as a racially inclusive pleasure ground towards the end of South Africa’s apartheid era. Using Gold Reef City as a lens, this presentation will elucidate how landscape amenities and environmental remediation are used selectively to reinforce racial disparities and foster economic aspirations of Johannesburg in the midst of transformation from apartheid to post-apartheid planning. This discussion will also touch upon various leisure landscapes located in the post-industrial mining belt of Johannesburg, such as football stadiums, drive-in theaters, amusement parks, and golf courses, and their relationship to the urban design and planning of central Johannesburg.

About the Speaker:

Dorothy Tang is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Hong Kong where she directs the undergraduate landscape program. Her practice and research focus on the intersections of regional infrastructure, urban development, and environmental change. She is particularly interested in the rehabilitation of environmentally degraded landscapes due to mining, infrastructural systems in informal settlements, and the relationship between urbanization and water resources. She is currently working on a book project visualizing the history of Johannesburg in relationship to gold mining and environmental change. She is a practicing landscape architect registered in the State of New York, USA