Incomplete Green Infrastructure: Lessons Learned from Rapid Urbanization in Beijing,China

Project Title: ‘Incomplete’ Green Infrastructure: Lessons Learned from Rapid Urbanization in Beijing,China

Project team: Huaqing Wang, Ming-Han Li

China’s rapid urbanization in recent decades has resulted in various negative effects, such as urban floods. For the example of Beijing, serious urban floods have hit the city annually since 2004. Each time when a flood occurred, the city’s infrastructure was traumatized, including 41 major corridors and highway intersections inundated in 2004; Beijing International Airport paralyzed in 2006; 79 fatalities on July 21th, 2012. However, urban floods seemed not affecting the urban parks in Beijing. Urban parks are valuable green infrastructure with a potential for mitigating floods. Unfortunately, the rapid urbanization process in Beijing overlooked hydrologic benefits parks can provide. Several parks in Beijing are considered ‘incomplete’ green infrastructure because they are not designed to be hydrologically connected with the surrounding areas and therefore, do not mitigate floods for the areas.

We took Taoranting Park, an urban park in Beijing, as an example, and analyzed the catchment area and green land ratio. We identified the factors that contributed to the form of ‘incomplete’ green infrastructure. Our study tasks included reviewing the park’s construction history, interviewing the chief of the park, interviewing witnesses of urban floods, analyzing the topography and calculating the catchment area of the park based on ArcGIS 10.

We found mismatch exists between grey and green infrastructure. The calculated catchment area of the Taoranting Park had the capacity to store the stormwater runoff volume produced by not only the park itself but also its surrounding area. However, underground pipelines and road drainage system around the park directed stormwater runoff to the municipal storm sewer system at the perimeter instead of towards the park. These findings indicate three oversights. The first is the lack of consideration in fully using the ecosystem service of green infrastructure when designing parks. The second is the lack of communication between the departments that are in charge of grey infrastructure and the one that is responsible for green infrastructure. The third is the lack of authority of green infrastructure management departments in retrofitting green infrastructure to reduce the pressure on grey infrastructure.

Lessons learned are summarized. For these parks, inadequate planning and execution occurred from a hydrology perspective. We suggest effective communications must be established between grey and green infrastructure departments and proper authority should be given to infrastructure management departments. New planning practice should integrate both grey and green infrastructure. Retrofit should be done to establish the link between green and grey infrastructure.

(Citation: Wang H Q, Li M H (2016). ‘Incomplete’ Green Infrastructure: Lessons Learned from Rapid Urbanization in Beijing, China, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, Salt Lake City, Utah. [Abstract and oral presentation by Wang H Q in March])


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

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])