More than 50 residents from Shengpu Residential Street, Suzhou, were invited to Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University to discuss community planning with teachers and students from the Department of Urban Planning and Design.

Dr Ying Chang (pictured below, centre) from the Department of Urban Planning and Design led the event. She said that the significance of this collaborative discussion was to allow residents to inspect students’ designs for their community.

The discussion was also part of collaborative teaching of the two modules, ‘Skills for Planning Practice’ and ‘Neighbourhood Planning’. Paola Pellegrini (pictured below, left) and Florence Vannoorbeeck (right), teachers of the module ‘Skills for Planning Practice’, noted the importance of the activity in terms of students’ learning outcomes:

“Collaborative planning helps students know the real thoughts and wishes of residents,” said Pellegrini. “They can find out about problems that exist in the community and then, by using the knowledge they have learned, help residents to realise solutions to those problems.”

During three-months of field work, the students found various problems in the Shengpu Residential Street community, including parking difficulties, problems of garbage classification, and the question of how to design high-rise buildings that are convenient for the elderly.

Year Two student Weizhi Chen (pictured below), studying on the BA Urban Planning and Design programme, explained how her team made its preparations during the early stages of the project: They arranged four to five groups in each community and each group, led by University tutors, conducted day-long field research on two to three separate occasions.

During each field work session, the students collected residents’ suggestions using a questionnaire, or by going directly to their homes for interviews. The students then used skills learned in-class to analyse the collected data.

Year Two student Qingrui Li, also from BA Urban Planning and Design, shared his feelings and experiences of this activity: “After in-depth communication with the residents in Shengpu Residential Street, we realised that some designs actually didn’t have much practical value to them even though we thought they were good.”

He gave an example that some elderly people with difficulties in mobility did not see the necessity of changing the current design of the community. “I still need to adjust the plan according to the local conditions and give solutions after understanding the residents’ real thoughts,” Qingrui concluded.

Dr Ying Chang also found this event helpful for the students, saying: “Such a socialised learning activity is valuable to students. It not only helps students apply their knowledge to practical applications, but more importantly, it cultivates their social skills and broadens their horizons.”

By Yanzi Wu
Translated by Ruotong Jiang; edited by Qiuchen Hu and Danny Abbasi

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