The effects of invasions and wars on urban form: a history of Shenyang city, China

Department: Landscape Architecture
Active Dates: March 2015 – October 2015

Project Title:The effects of invasions and wars on urban form: a history of Shenyang city, China

Project team: Huaqing Wang, Newman Galen


Shenyang, formerly the capital city of the Qing dynasty in China, has experienced a unique urban planning and construction process, primarily due to repeated internal and external wars throughout history. From 1898 to 2000, Shenyang experienced a multitude of invasions including attacks from Russian and Japanese countries and internal conflicts such as the Chinese Civil War, the Warlord Era and the New China Era. These invasions and wars have significantly influenced the transportation system, industrial structure and economic status of the city, resulting in direct and indirect changes in the urban form of Shenyang. The city with now has two urban core areas and is characterized by and a collage of styles including Chinese organic and grid forms, European Baroque axes and terminal points, and Japanese ‘ting’ and rhombus forms. The rhombus form appeared in the old Commercial Port area in Shenyang to connect the Imperial Palace and historical South Manchuria Railway Zone areas.

In an effort to untangle this rich spatial tapestry, this paper reviews invasions in Shenyang’s history and links their effects on factors of social equity such as urban construction, street networks change, accessibility and locational difference. These variables are analyzed using 10 historical maps from 1898-1996 through Space Syntax software, which identifies fundamental links between spatial layout and the social, economic and environmental performance of a place. The study assesses differences through both time series analyses and single time period district comparisons.

In 1898-1903, during the Russian invasion period, the South Manchuria Railway was constructed. After the Japanese took over in 1905, they planned constructed the South Manchuria Railway Zone. This Zone is characterized by the traditional Japanese ‘ting’ form as well as European Baroque elements which, at that time, were popular in Japan. In 1906, under the requirements of several western consortiums, the Chinese government, in partnership with Japanese colonists, constructed the first horse-drawn rail car line. This strengthened the link between the Imperial Palace area and historical South Manchuria Railway Zone. Between 1916 and 1931, the Warlord Zhang Zuolin controlled the urban development of Shenyang. Within this time, the Commercial Port area in Shenyang was established. This is historical zone urban Shenyang allowed foreigners to build houses, rent land and conduct business.

The area between the Imperial Palace and the historical South Manchuria Railway Zone eased the contact between political and military populations. Planning in this area did not simply mimic the form of the South Manchuria Railway Zone, but explored a way to best connect the Shenyang old city with the Railway Zone while maximizing the integrity of the land. Also, the South Market design in the commercial port area followed the traditional Chinese Eight Trigrams ideology, which came from the famous philosophical book ‘I Ching.’ Around 1920, Zhang developed several industrial districts in Shenyang. The forms of these industrial districts all differ. Some follow European styles and many were self-developed without a clear pattern. All the forms discussed above still can be seen in Shenyang today, despite large locational and accessibility differences. Internal and external strife led to a dueling urban system with split populations, resulting in separate central business districts between cultures. Historical events. Such as wars and strife, can significantly influence urban form and due to social equity lapses. Policies to balance these issues and smarter design/planning can assist.

(Citation: Wang H Q, Newman G D (2015). The Effects of Invasions and Wars on Urban Form: A History of Shenyang City in China, The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Houston, Texas. [Full paper and oral presentation by Wang H Q in October])

Enlarge Photo: The effects of invasions and wars on urban form: a history of Shenyang city, China 1Enlarge Photo: The effects of invasions and wars on urban form: a history of Shenyang city, China 2Enlarge Photo: The effects of invasions and wars on urban form: a history of Shenyang city, China 3