The role of typomorphology in sustaining the cultural identity of Chinese cities : the case study of Nanjing, China

Fei Chen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The cultural identity of Chinese urban form and the collective sense of domestic space, which play an essential role in making culturally sustainable and harmonious places of China, are facing huge challenge in the rapidly modernized and globalized Chinese cities. Along with the assimilation and encroachment of the conventional physic urban form, the cultural image of locality has been permanently lost, which makes Chinese cities placeless. The concept of type and theory of typology in urban planning and design will be employed in the research to understand the development of the urban fabric, abstract the essence of space and instruct planning practices by the establishment of local hierarchical types of city elements, such as the plan, silhouette, street & street network, urban blocks, urban public space, public buildings and houses. Since type is defined in specific context, it symbolically delivers the meaning of place, evokes the collective memory of the culturally associated community. Nanjing as the case studied city will be analyzed in the hierarchical framework in a chronological manner along with the major transformations in its history, as well as the political and economic forces affecting urban form. The paper will be organized as following. Firstly, the trajectory of typomorphology theory in the western world provides an abundant theoretic foundation, while Chinese traditions offer the practical context for the study. Furthermore, the general plan and street network & streets will be particularly focused in the walled area of the city in terms of the physical features and spatial configuration. Each type of street and street network in different stages reflects the design intent at that time, but spiritually connects with inhabitants' daily lives over history, which remains a constant influence on the physical form. In addition, the analysis of existing city fabric gives a reference for a broad urban design toward a harmonious and balanced development in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2009


  • typomorphology
  • cultural identity
  • Chinese cities


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