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Dynamic Density Maps of Beijing cannot be made fast enough.

The speed of its renewal defies any static representation. The goal is a complete metamorphosis. The city develops simultaneously outwards, inwards and upwards. The transformations are almost instant and omni-present, but the final outcome of this flash urbanization is unclear. The impact on the environment and urban society is equally fickle. It brings forth the new city, yet suffocates it in its onslaught. It achieves modernity for its citizens and makeshift villages for its migrants. It provides downtown living and working space for an exploding population yet relocates masses to the suburbs. The new urban fabric is very dense, yet consumes vast amounts of arable land and eats away at the historic core. The urban expansion of Beijing can no longer be contained by planners or politicians, but plans and policies accelerate its suburbanization. The result is a new periphery that defies any assumption of urban quality and forces us to rethink the meaning of sprawl and suburbia. Even in the outskirts accepted grounds for sprawl, such as low density, unplanned or

Dynamic Density

haphazard development, car dependent or mono-functional neighbourhoods are one by one rejected. Planned satellites fail to develop and scattered shanty communities continue to flourish. The problems attributed to sprawl seem all-pervading. Still, the Western scepsis for suburbia should be abandoned {add; difference suburbia} when in introduces dense high-rise communities, that respond to a massive need for homes with modern amenities almost instantaneously and its onslaught is embraced by an entire nation. Its features should be understood, possibly quantified and qualified, its potential laid bare. However, we will venture into the new Chinese suburb with caution. The knowledge that the modern metropolis is stuck in traffic and western-bred suburbia has not been able to reinvent itself should provide a warning, particularly for a city on the path of explosive motorization, with all hope to alleviate inner-city congestion based on suburbs and satellites. It is clear the intended image of Beijing will never be achieved, at the same time disturbing suburban hamlets prove versatile and able to quickly progress. We have set out to describe this process and the new suburban landscape for Beijing. Here, the transition from monocentric to polycentric model best exemplifies the shaky shift from planned economy to a (socialist) market economy. It includes the apparent success formulas of the new towns of Shanghai and the high-tech development zones (HTDZ) of the Pearl River Delta. This has become the ambiguous blueprint for hundreds of new cities under construction throughout the country. The intermediate state between old and new, between ideologies and between planning models is the contemporary Chinese city.

Master plans for Beijing are continuously behind with reality [Map BJ 2010]. Looking at the city’s development forces us to consider the compressed time quality of rapid urban transformation. Even an instantaneous map of the city becomes irrelevant in the overall context of the city in transition. The mere assumption Beijing will continue to grow, change and partly recede has redirected our focus away from the awe-inspiring objectives for 2008 and even the existing long-term plans, to consider what direction the city is most likely to take and how to respond. The mind-boggling economic growth of China and the announcement of Beijing’s winning of the bid for the 2008 Olympics has brought a conscious international attention upon the city. Star architects building a small number of downtown mega-projects have aroused in the city a mesmerizing sense of advancement. These stepping stone projects, such as the CBD and the high-tech district of Tiantongyuan help authorities to master the speed and scale of urbanization. The most prestigious projects will be finished soon, but many will remain unattainable drawing board proposals. Simultaneously and seemingly outside the scope of official planning an entirely new city is being built. A tidal wave of residential mega-blocks is currently under construction on the urban fringe. This is where Beijing has commenced on its latest and largest transmutation. Here the problems Beijing faces and the potential solutions are amplified and meet each other. Beijing’s expanding residential areas will be our focal point. To assess the quality of such fringe developments plunges us in the ongoing and highly disseminated discussion of urban sprawl; a discussion that has gradually accumulated all negative effects of urban growth and made it part of sprawl. But one thing is agreed that sprawl occurs on the urban fringe of rapidly expanding areas; this makes the concept very applicable to Beijing. However the term has become so abused that it lacks precise meaning; “defining urban sprawl has become a methodological quagmire” (Audirac, Shermyen, & Smith, 1990). The phenomena we encounter in the Beijing fringe will add to this cloud of meanings to point its definition would become self-contradicting. In order to describe the dynamic developments of Beijing we will introduce the term [trans-sprawl] that is specific to the Beijing (or at least the Chinese) context. It contains many symptoms generally contributed to urban sprawl, yet its physical manifestation, the socio-political context and most importantly its ephemeral qualities radically differ from its western counterpart. Trans-sprawl suggests a large part of the negative effects of Chinese suburbanization are only temporary. Indeed they present a necessary phase in the conversion to a larger city {add birch theory?}. As such it becomes part of our over-arching premise of [Dynamic Density] (DD). It conceives of an ideal balance between built up area, or the footprint of a city and its [urban density]. An ideal density to footprint ratio exists for every stage of a city’s development from village to metropolis. Dynamic Density allows us to map this evolution and defines the urban and architectural prototypes most suitable for the different stages of development. Through this, we can make light of the regional scaled network of hierarchies and interdependencies between the different urban nodes. We will use Dynamic Density as a visual tool for mapping Beijing, not merely in terms of describing the quantity of density, but the process of it, and what it might ultimately become. At this point, Dynamic Density enters a second phase in the mapping process, whereby illustration prescribes a strategy, not simply for transporting densities (people, built environment, congestion, etc.), as is the current policy of Beijing urban planners - in effect, relocating the city to the outskirts - but for rendering the existing flows more efficient. In the case of Beijing this means approximating the natural process of radial expansion. In the market driven environment this represents the most sustainable form for urbanization. Having determined the shape of the city, we will propose a growth scenario that will increase the density of the existing city between the Second and Fifth Ring Road. Our version of relocating Beijing describes a new circle centre anticipating residential developments. In the third stage this new residential zone will mature with the repositioning of the surplus of urban function of the inner-city core or the [black hole]. An exemplary case is made for the insertion of pedestrian orientated mass transit system. As a transcendental (hypothetical?) proposal it underlines the necessity to break down the walls of the gated communities and illustrates the potential to reintroduce public green space. legenda

tissue caused by enlargement of [coarseness]: Overstretched urban Gives rise to a pedestrian architecture and infrastructure. landscape. hostile
In an effort to describe the different side-effects of suburbanization we will introduce a number of derivative forms of sprawl; [Infra-sprawl] [mono-sprawl]. They refer to excessive infrastructure and the ensuing reduction of accessibility, uniformity and the risk of social segregation they occur extensively in Beijing, but could equally apply outside this context. As [sprawl] has not yet been clearly defined, the verdict is still out on its negative or positive effects, on its cost-effectiveness and the living quality it offers. These terms aim to identify the negative sideeffects of suburbanization and indeed Chinese urbanization. Beijing offers an environment that is still highly monocentric. The urbanization of the city region, even of the satellite cities take form in relation to the larger urban body of Beijing. This gives its suburbanization an unambiguous direction outwards; unlike Pearl River Delta style urbanization that has resulted in entirely new cities such as Shenzhen or the countless new urban settlements that spread the nation. Even within the municipality of Beijing we see a unrelated form of urbanization; [Speed Sprawl]. Where [Trans-Sprawl] describes a transitory suburban development that has the potential to become efficient and even central urban tissue, [Speed Sprawl] is a discontiguous expansion beyond the field of [urban gravity] as a result of accelerated (sub-) urbanization. No sprawl Having introduced so many descendants of the sprawl concept in the final section of this chapter we will propose there is no sprawl. Beijing presents the unique feature of suburbanization that is for a large part extremely dense. In this lies the potential for the disenfranchised districts to purge themselves of virtually all the drawbacks of sprawl. As the ultimate surprise make-over an elaborate Beijing can emerge from this process of rapid expansion and reveal a rich and seasoned identity; the last minute escape from a otherwise generic modernization.

Though spread out the urban composition was highly efficient. Planning policies were engineered with efficiency and equality in mind and executed and controlled with vigor. Space for living working and recreation were neatly compacted together in almost self-sustainable units. Eventually every facet of daily life should have been perfectly attuned to the urban system and vice versa; for all and for life. And though investment in infrastructure was very poor, with such stringent measures any movement beyond the range of the bicycle was made redundant. Together with the tight-knit and integrated structure of the hutongs this has left Beijing and most Chinese cities dense and streamlined until the early eighties. [image no.] [up-scaling]: from hutong to hyper-building. With the introduction of the market for land use rights in the 1980s, the city rapidly expanded, re-appropriating industrial areas for commercial use and new residential neighbourhoods. Again the buildings increased in size augmenting the contrasts of downtown Beijing; Glitzy skyscrapers align dilapidated hutongs; dense residential compounds are surrounded by farmland. Neighbourhoods have dramatically changed shape overnight with the demolition (and resurrection) of entire blocks. The move away from a planned economy leaves a hybrid landscape, from centre to suburb, satellite to village. The current stage of this transformation delivers a fascinating topography, where new forms of planning and architecture seem to arise naturally. Lively markets and modern department stores, parks and parking towers, small neighbourhood contentment and big city amenities are crammed inherently together. This juxtaposition of residential interspersed with commercial, intricate and bulky, seems if only for the moment, to present a vital mixture of planning and free growth. From a high standpoint, however, the city gives testimony of a more straightforward development. Up-market residential buildings and office towers have simply added a new ring consisting of its own specific market architecture. In turn, these blocks eat inwards, consuming random chunks of the neatly contained hutongs and painstakingly planned dormitory neighbourhoods.

Towards Chinese Modernism: Beijing Ringing. As the nation’s capital for nearly 800 years, pre-Communist Beijing is the textbook example of a carefully planned Chinese city; a clear grid of courts and single storey hutongs surround the central palace, emphasizing the celestial order, the balance between heaven and earth, the emperor and its subjects. When in 1949 Mao proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic from Tiananmen Square a period of equally clear-cut urban layout was to begin. Its blueprint consisted of an evenly spaced plane of work and living units [danwei]. These neighbourhoods were spread out so far they reached the current borders of the city. At this same time, post-war America was also making its move beyond the centre. Propelled towards the outskirts with the support of the car and a flourishing consumer driven economy, an entirely new form of living was engendered—suburbia. Conversely in China, an all-encompassing cleaning operation deconstructed the existing civic society and replaced it with a production society. Soon, concentric zones of identical five story dormitory style buildings surrounded the historic centre. In line with the Modernist tradition, blocks were designed in fifty meter long segments, facing perfectly south, with small open courtyards. [image no.] Socio-urban alignment.

Dense Suburban texture of mega blocks.

Inflated Market


A certain trait of [coarseness] can be used to qualify the urban texture of Beijing. It refers to the crude, uneven quality of urban dispersion, moving the discussion beyond the mere form of the city to describing the movements that stretch and enlarge public space, architecture and infrastructure. It produces a hostile urbanity and introduces a first symptom of sprawl; inaccessibility. Sprawl aimed simultaneously at the suburb and the centre. Moved one paragraph up.. {socialist market graphic} Big economy, big towers The exploding urban scale and accelerated construction correlates with the arrival of inner-city highways. Though the concept of a ring and radial road system was created in the 1950s and the construction of the second ring road started as early as the 1960s, rings 2 to 6 were in reality all built in the last twenty years. The layout was thought to be an ideal transportation system to support the planned urban pattern. New highway orientated building typologies were developed typical of the late communist era?? and massive glass and concrete slabs and box towers were erected alongside the new roads. The Fourth Ring Road would be the edge of the city center, the Fifth Ring Road would link the suburbs and the Sixth Ring Road should connect the satellite towns. Like most proposals concerning Beijing, reality would quickly surpass the objectives for efficient transport. Today the city centre spills well over the Fifth Ring Road in all directions. {intro for graphic page} Growing bigger and bigger the once all-encompassing local neighbourhood has disintegrated; social interaction and commercial space displaced outside the residential realm. In the Western context, this process has triggered a suburban, low-density, car-oriented lifestyle. In China, however, the near converse of the North American suburb appears. The large-scale residential blocks and villas located on and beyond the outer rings of the city are largely cater to the new wealth of the middle and upper middle class segments of Chinese society. The concept of suburbia is offered at tower-block density and executed with blatant [copy and paste] efficiency. Large slabs built as a sequence of cross-shape towers encircle a public area on top of a parking garage. Surrounded by little green and much infrastructure their suburban qualities are forcefully marketed on the exterior curtain of billboards. The message revolves around a [green illusion]; large luxurious dwellings in a green urban setting, giving promise to the xiao kang society pledged by the 16th Party Congress. Rents for upmarket villas (detached, single family homes) range from US$1,500 to US$12,000 per month, and purchase prices from US$250,000 to the millions, making Beijing one of the world’s most expensive retail markets.1 And while there is certainly no lack of shanty and low-quality development infiltrating and contributing to sprawl formation, the butt of planned development focuses upon an up-scale suburbia, ranging from the middle-class mega-block to the truly suburban villa parks. These are the new building blocks of China’s urbanism. (Vacancy here??)

{inflated market graphic} Inflated Market Economy; ARCH=URB The economic divide has accelerated the urge to fortify. The car-dependent middle-class is trapped along ring roads, needing to leave the residential block for most services and facilities. The roads within the block are reduced to small idyllically curving trails that converge at a single exit connecting to the freeway. Nestled geographically between the suburbs and the centre, these residential bubbles are effectively suburbanizing the downtown areas. Though tall and modern they meet many requirements to be considered sprawl. At this scale the enclosed [stamp] should be considered an urban element but in reality ignores its urban surroundings and can be inserted with minimum regard of infrastructure or urban facilities. The sum of Chinese stamps has reduced the city to a loosely arranged sequence of big blocks, and urban planning has been diminished to bloated architecture. The enormous imbalance between architecture and infrastructure results in a kind of [infrasprawl], which can be defined as, on one hand, disruptions of spatial patterns created by excesses of infrastructure and on the other, infrastructure that consumes more space than it can serve or generates more traffic more than it can process. Large-scale urban interventions (five rings of up to four lanes each direction) have had a number of consequences. The ring road system has been inserted uncompromisingly in the crammed conditions of Beijing. Even with hardly any cars to occupy these inner-city freeways their construction pushed on. Colossal cloverleaf intersections were imbedded in between the hutongs and dormitory housing blocks; a massive 147 fly-over junctions on the fourth ring road alone. It has effectively introduced hundreds of walls and inhospitable patches leaving the pedestrian stranded. In Beijing nonmotorized transport, such as by bicycle and pedestrian, was the principal form of transport until the 1990s. Now even the residents of downtown dormitories hardly have a choice. Their blocks are encircled by highways while an adequate mass transit system is not yet in place.2 Although this typology cannot accommodate cars the compact neighbourhoods are quickly transforming into parking lots. To connect the different patches more infrastructure has been inserted in the form of countless footbridges and tunnels. [numbers]. (Footnotes) 1 “The Real Deal Survival Guide to Beijing Real Estate,” 2 A comprehensive urban transport network (including subway, light rail and long distance rail) is not slated for completion until 2020, when most architectural developments will have already been completed.

[infrasprawl] i. Excesses of infrastructure creating disruptions of spatial patterns and causing inaccessibility ii. Infrastructure that consumes more space than it can serve or generates more traffic more than it can process. Comparable to the height of an office tower, the size of a city is finite. After a certain building height, to accommodate the top floors with elevators, space will be sacrificed at the bottom. Infrasprawl suggest a similar optimum applies to the footprint of the city and its road network.

[infrasprawl] Comparable to the height of an office tower, the size of a city is finite. After a certain building height, to accommodate the top floors with elevators, space will be sacrificed at the bottom. Infrasprawl suggest a similar optimum applies to the footprint of the city and its road network.

Alain Bertaud “Large (mobile) labor markets the only raison d’être of large cities”

Density Paradox


>> O2

[Black hole]: Center of urban gravity. Saturated and stagnant zone that triggers urbanization but doesn’t participate in it; often coincides with historic center. -- lot of pressure, it canot rewspond too!

sprawl discussion

“Any act of planning will inevitably contribute to the problem...”

Market-driven Organic Development describes an organic urbanization patterns as the result of an accumulation of designed and well orchestrated planning.

Oblong ratio: ratio of diameters between the shortest and longest diameters as if the city was an oblong ellipse


The floating village is Chinese public-private collaboration perfected; streamlined deployment of a massive no-wages, no-demands workforce reminiscent of the communist era, constructing government endorsed urban mega-projects for a fiercely competitive real-estate market.

Up-scaling Hutong: density xxx, xxx m2/p, 1 storey Shops, facilities and social activity are all absorbed in the integrated structure of small alleys and homes. Dormitory: density: xxx, xxx m2/p, 5 storeys Work and living areas in a rational layout of buildings infrastructure and public space. Highway Compound; density: xxx, xxx m2/p, 15-25 storeys Simultaneously with the massive road system large highway compounds in slabs and cross towers. Disconnected or no facilities. Residential Mega-block: density: xxx, xxx m2/p, 25-50 storeys Facilities absorbed in block. Fenced off and car-orientated. Work and leisure in large units removed from home. Floating Village: density: xxx, xxx m2/p, 1⁄2 storey (2000 bunk beds) Fully self-sufficient mobile village of barracks accommodating several thousand construction workers.

[Floating village]: migrating village of barracks style architecture moving from one construction site to the next, offering accommodation at up to 300.000 people per square kilometer.

Towards Chinese modernity
The trend of fortification has generated a uniquely Chinese enclave of middle-class residential blocks surrounded by basic greenery on top of a parking garage. {Sketch immobility} With such sheltered stamps the Beijing periphery is being built. It [seals] itself off and protects its residents from the urban clutter generated in the post-planned cityscape. Bit by bit it gobbles up and privatises communal space of pre-market Beijing. It can connect to minimal infrastructure and hook into uncharted territory with ease. It can dress up the wasteland along the highways and market a [green illusion]. The result is a neo-lecorbusian landscape of the same cookie-cutter cross-shaped towers as envisaged with the Ville Radieuse, only adorned with capricious caps and crowns. In strings they are scattered along the Fourth and Fifth Ring Roads. Other forms consist of [dormitory] extrusions; tall elongated slabs that present a remodelling of China’s own modernist heritage. They form a distinct new ring of urbanization; partly beyond the suburbs (hence our qualification with sprawl derivatives), partly within the Fourth Ring Road; encouraging their progression to a peripheral center.

Dispersion The problem that remains is that the bulk of the residential quarters will have been built beforehand. Even though the transit plans exist, the new compounds largely take shape with only road accessibility in mind. The ideal location for up-market living is along the 4th ring road. Transportation planning should consider land use and the urban spatial structure. But the Chinese stamp can be inserted with minimum regard of infrastructure or urban facilities. As Mayor Wang Qishan of Beijing puts it: “Contradiction between real estate development and traffic regulations is the biggest problem now facing Beijing.” Particularly with the maturing of internet and telecommuting (or home working) ideas of job dispersion flourished. However, poly-nuclear cities, specially very large ones such as Tokyo or Seoul, seem hardly able to reduce travel times, length or numbers of commutes. The freedom to move efficiently to any point becomes the success formula of the capitalist city. This is a far cry from the ideals of the urban configuration of the danwei era. Alain Bertaud; “large (mobile) labour markets are the raison d’etre of large cities”. It makes residential-job dispersion a poor tool for traffic reduction of a metropolis. Conversely traffic can augment with the creation of displaced monofunctional districts such as sleeping towns. [Monosprawl]: i. An urban extension that is not necessarily inefficient, dispersed or suburban, but should be regarded as sprawl because of its mono-functional nature. ii. Spatially or socially uniform area that encourages social segregation Shopping, recreation and public space close to the residence does however positively effect travel behaviour. In Tokyo an effective balance has evolved connecting residential and business areas with mass transit. These commutes are predominantly defined by trips between home and work. Every day necessities such as groceries are provided in a fine grid of convenience stores distributed across the dense residential areas. Dedicated retail and entertainment centres are grouped around the transit nodes and the business districts.

The opposite model is most evolved in Hong Kong. Here publicprivate collaboration has enabled very tall and compacted building typologies to move far into the new territories. The real-estate and railway developers work in conjunction on new extensions making the homes well-connected and the trains profitable. Unlike the Chinese stamp, these enclaves offer an abundance of facilities in a hotel-like setting with direct public transport to the center. [pic cities without history].

1. Bus stop and parking lot 2. Sliced-open air vent 3. Swimming pool island, sports club, school 4. Pedestal of interior facilities 5. Wall of almost touching towers; allows construction and selling to be phased

HK Suburban Super Block




Trans Sprawl

[sprawl]: v. sprawled, sprawl·ing, sprawls v. intr. To spread out in a straggling or disordered fashion. n. Haphazard growth or extension outward, especially that resulting from real estate development on the outskirts of a city: urban sprawl. In urban theory: urban declining of (aggregate) density as a result of i. decline population density of built up area ii. decline of rent gradient; urban density falls when incomes rise and agricultural rents fall

[speed sprawl]: Self-contradicting form of sprawl; a mixture dense, dispersed, planned and irregular suburbanization. The result of accelerated construction.

BRAND CITY accomodating a modern labor force