The Department of Urban Planning and Design uses the theme of 'sustainable urbanisation' to underpin its research activities, reflecting the University's academic strategy and vision to become a research-led international university in China.

To develop a strong research culture and demonstrate the value and impact of our research to the society, we interpret the concept of 'sustainable urbanisation' from a variety of perspectives according to our own research interests by:

  • Strengthening our research performance (e.g. publication, research findings, research graduate students, etc.)
  • Building an entrepreneurial department (e.g. research collaborations with industry, including Samsung SDS China, SCP Consultants Pte Ltd., Futurepolis LLC)
  • Demonstrating the impact of our research and innovation through research-led services to local societies, research-led pedagogy, etc.

Some of our important research areas include (but are not limited to):

  • Infrastructure
  • Transport and city planning
  • Smart cities and technology
  • Territorial development and restricting
  • Planning, governance and politics
  • Real estate, economic development and regeneration
  • Environment and public health
  • Landscape and urban design

Global cities

Exploring issues related to city competition under the regime of globalisation, focussing particularly on the interplay between space and the location of firms and people. Topics comprise: industrial clusters, social capital, sustainable cities and smart cities, etc. Emphasis is given to emerging districts such as the Suzhou Industrial Park and other cases in China or abroad. Some research questions focus on how to balance liveability, sustainability and city competitiveness.

Funded research projects:

  • Min, New urban space in the era of globalisation: The case of Suzhou
  • Min, Local impacts of foreign direct investment: a case study of Korean manufacturing firms in Suzhou, China
  • Karki, Does Social Capital Matter to the Academic Prosperity of Higher Education Clusters in China? A Case Study from Suzhou

Managing urban and rural change

Explores urban issues of great concern for the future sustainability of the urbanisation process and its management challenges. Areas of study include: the governance of urban growth by looking at the urban-rural interface (including peri-urban planning, landscape governance, urban-rural tourism, urban food, large infrastructure planning), and the inner city (Urban regeneration). Attention is also given to the challenge to reform the current education system with respect to such challenges. Future research questions will be focussed on how effective will be the set of urban policies that China is currently trying to implement to cope with these emerging issues.

Funded research projects:

  • Verdini, When local meets global: urban fringe planning and institutional arrangement
  • Verdini, The Suzhou local food system planning-Analysis of the quality of the food and agro-demand
  • Verdini, Planning the urban fringe in China: how to improve the current institutional setting
  • Verdini, Assigning open-space non market values as a tool for planning the urban-rural fringe in Suzhou
  • Wang, Towards an Effective Integration of Urban-Rural Tourism: Mapping Agritourism Development on Suzhou Urban Fringe
  • Chen, Research on the New Education Models that aims to improve University students' Overall Competency in the context of Chinese Ecological Civilization Development

City governance and politics

Good city governance is imperative for managing cities and regions and for addressing institutional, political and community level challenges. It focusses on our ability to analyse issues related to globalisation, urbanisation, financial investments, urban regeneration and public participation. Currently staff in our Department are creating partnerships with local government and private developers for improving city governance in various projects. Questions focus on what is a good governance model to ensure sustainability in cities and regions.

Funded research projects:

  • Breitung, Differentiated governance in the Pearl River Delta: Fragmentation and flexibility
  • Breitung, The social construction of sense of place: Place-making in cross-border communities in Shenzhen and Hong Kong
  • Verdini, "I HATE KARL MARX". Chinese clustering impact on European cities and the challenge of planning
  • Verdini, Urban Planning for Whom? Sustainable Development in Intermediate Cities of China – The Case of Huai'an.

History, theories and conservation of the built environment

Current research on this theme covers several topics, such as: gender, sexuality and architecture; the study of the historical development of contemporary Chinese new towns; indigenous contribution to climate mitigations; the origins, development and evolution of the urban community typologies in the Chinese cites; heritage conservation; and regeneration and preservation of historical Chinese water towns in Suzhou area.

Funded research projects:

  • Sewell, Modernity and Masculinity: the Bachelor Pad in its Contemporary Design Context
  • Wang, Measuring the Public Perception of Post-war Housing Heritage – The Case of Caoyang New Village, Shanghai
  • Pernice, Design between City Planning and Urban Utopia: Examples of Model New Towns and Urban Re-developments in Shanghai-Suzhou Metropolitan.

Land, housing and community

Explores, in a broader context of urbanisation, issues related to the transformation of land use, rapid growth in housing demand and the housing market in a market-oriented economy and the new formation and transition of community in a more diverse and dynamic society. Main topics comprise: community development, housing for disadvantaged groups, for example, resettlements for displaced farmers in Suzhou, affordable housing policy, property market analysis as well as theories such as collaborative planning. Key questions critique the impacts and opportunities of land and housing development, and ask how different communities develop and respond to changes to land use and housing.

Funded research projects:

  • Chang, The Sustainable Livelihood Approach for large-scale community of displaced farmers
  • Chang, Neighbourhood planning for large scale resettlement community of landless farmers
  • Zhong, Public participation of urban regeneration in China.

Urban design approaches, methods and tools

Explores the nexus of ‘research’ and ‘design’ in the context of urbanism. Specifically it uses research on the built environment to inform design decision-making and uses design outputs to verify research hypothesis. It considers relevant design approaches, methods and tools that can help close the loop of ‘research-design’ in a collaborative place-making process. Main topics comprise: research by design; new town, neighbourhood planning and design; sustainable planning/design strategies and practice; social and cultural approaches to architecture and urban space; evidence-based design; water sensitive design; built environment assessment methods and indicators; human and computer interface; social learning; mapping using GIS; and typology. The key question to be answered under this theme is how can we nurture an integrated learning environment that supports innovation in future urban design

Funded research projects:

  • Breitung, Multi‐sensory perception of urban green spaces
  • Chen, Sustainable Architectural Education: Cultivation of the Professional Knowledge and Professional Ethics
  • Chen, The Integrated Design Strategies for Sustainable Evidence-based Healthcare Design
  • Pernice, Modern Housing and Living in China: From Rural Villages Clusters to Urban Gated Communities
  • Pernice, A Study of Urban Morphology in Modern China - Focusing on the New Towns in China's Rapidly Growing Cities: "One City, Nine Towns Plan" in Shanghai.

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