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George Frantz: Retrofitting Urban Greenspace in Contemporary China

Xu Jia Hui Park waterfront in Shanghai.

Beginning in the 1940s urban planners in Shanghai began adapting principles of the English Garden Cities movement of the late 1800s in the design of new “worker village” residential developments to house the influx of new residents after WWII and Liberation.  Combining the traditional very large city blocks that have distinguished cities in China for millennia with open space and landscaping, and concrete and brick mid-rise architecture, they were able to replace the densely packed lilong alley house neighborhood with landscaped urban enclaves that at the same time maintained high population densities in the urban core.

As the city evolves in the 21st century, urban planners have begun to address two issues, a severe deficiency in public parks, and stormwater run-off management and urban run-off pollution. The wetland park concept integrates stormwater management with natural remediation of urban run-off pollutants, and the provision of critically needed parks and public green space.

At the Biogeochemical, Environmental Studies, and Sustainability Seminar, Professor of Practice George Frantz discussed retrofitting tactics in Shanghai which experimented with ways to absorb and retain heavy rainfall in dense urban areas. Chinese President Xi Jinping described cities needing to act “like a sponge,” dubbing this concept as “Sponge City.” This type of stormwater management strategy became codified as a national standard, with 16 cities testing this retrofitting intervention as part of a pilot program.

Published in CRP Faculty

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