Re-envisioning the Third Place: Reconnecting Spatial Networks in the Historic Urban Landscape

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Abstract

‘Re-envisioning the Third Place’ is a research-based design extended from the 2019 AA Summer School in Chengdu, China named as ‘Marking the City’. Collaborated with all summer school students, the author investigated spatial networks of Kuanzhai Alley, which located at the heart of Shaocheng, Chengdu. As one of the most famous historical sites in the city, it has reached great success as a popular commercial district full of tourists and commercial activities. However, the abandoned historical buildings, crowed courtyard space occupied by the informal constructions & car parks also led to the diminishing of ‘third place’ (Oldenburg, 1999) in its neighbourhood as well as decreasing its liveability and identity. Meanwhile, the social condition in the neighbourhood is degrading. The social class is lowering in the old neighbourhood while the upgrading of the social class in gated communities caused the social segregation. From the heritage perspective, we believe it is crucial to reconnect the social-spatial network with rich third place in Shaocheng to strengthen the identity of the existing heritage and renewed identity for the old neighbourhood area. From the residents’ perspective, the complete social-spatial network with good third place is important for improving the liveability of the local area and building a new urban identity. The summer school design research was developed from these two perspectives and adopted multiple research methods like historical and policy review, case studies and mapping, interview and co-design sessions. Through the elaboration of a vision and an urban plan with the third place design, we conceived a spatial strategy that effectively integrates the local urban fabric and urban development, which looks for durable and resilient spatial solutions that can be incorporated into the local planning and design but also provide a framework for other historical regenerations in many other Chinese cities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages78
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2020

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