Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, 24th ISUF 2017 - City and Territory in the Globalization Age

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The Shaping Process of Urban Form Under a Socialist System: Townscape Diversity and its Formation in Sanlitun, Beijing
Yang Meng, Miao Zeng, Feng Song

Last modified: 11-05-2018


The difference between socio-economic systems is an important factor in the diversity of urban form. M. R. G. Conzen (1960) established a framework for urban morphology in the context of a British social system and culture. It was suggested that this did not necessarily apply to cities affected by revolutionary planning measures. China, which is markedly different in social system and culture from Britain by most standards qualifies as revolutionary, at least in the post-war period. Sanlitun in Beijing, China,  is an interesting case for comparison with British cities. It was a site containing few buildings during the initial stage of new China, but subsequently became the ‘Second Embassy District’ where many embassies gathered. Now it has become a commercial core district and cultural meeting place of Westerners and Chinese. The townscape of Sanlitun, which has experienced a number of socialist construction periods reveals the process of changing urban form under a socialist system. Identifying morphological periods, the changing process of townscape development in Sanlitun is articulated. Morphological units are delimited. They clarify the variations in Sanlitun’s landscapes and their formation. Based on these, this paper reflects on the shaping process of townscape under different socio-cultural systems, and further considers the universality, applicability and particularities of Conzenian theory.

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