Intertextures. Polarization and Diffusion in Yangtze River Delta: social ties, environment, economy

Department: Landscape Architecture
Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: September 2015 – September 2017

Project Title: Intertextures. Polarization and Diffusion in Yangtze River Delta: social ties, environment, economy.

Principal Investigator: Andrea Palmioli DLA, HKU

Project Funding: UKNA, University of Paris-Est EDVTT


The current study is designed to examine the spatial relationship between dynamics of polarization and diffusion embedded in rural-urban transformations in China’s urban regions.

Scholarship in urban studies have focused on urbanization as a prime agent of economic growth, emphasizing metropolitan areas as catalysts for regional development. In this view the process of urbanization facilitates the transition of rural areas into conurbations of urban sub-urban units scattered in a predominantly rural landscape”.

This urban-centered approach, which focuses on the separation between rural and urban contexts, suggests that the urbanization process would lead to urban sprawl and ongoing encroachment of the countryside. The consequence is spatial fragmentation, which will in turn leads to imbalance of the ecosystem, thereby raising further concerns for ecological sustainability of Chinese mega urban regions.

Using empirical evidences gathered from the Lower Yangtze Delta, this study explores how development patterns in China since the 1950s have been significantly shaped by indigenous practices of guanxi (networks) and the onset of rural reforms. These processes have led to ongoing diffusion of settlements with formation of new networks and functional clusters of enterprises scattered over the countryside. Consequentially, this mode of productivity has in turn reshape the relationship between the natural environment, economy and local communities.

Building upon Vivienne Shue’s hypothesis of intertextures and McGee’s formulation of Desakota, this study draws attention to the spatial and social implications resulting from the overlapping processes of diffusion and polarization. It ultimately argues for an urgent need to reconsider the programmatic sequence that underlie the morphology of the mega urban region through an examination of the interactions between physically disjointed systems.


Enlarge Photo:  © Image : Andrea Palmioli