Chapter 5: Planning features of Lilong settlements

5.1. Street pattern

As has elaborated in earlier chapters, the street network in Shanghai was derived from traditional checker-board pattern, but had changed and twist to a high degree. The overall street pattern was quite organic and random by the first look, but there still exist order and regularity.

The city-grid and street pattern in the old city especially the earlier concessions is comparatively regular and standardized, with a recognizable pattern of gridiron system. Two series of roughly paralleling streets connect to each other in a cross-intersection, forming square-shaped urban blocks. This pattern of urban streets has the benefit of being strongly connected, openly accessible and readily expandable. It offers a wide variety of possible routes of movement through the urban blocks and accessing nodes in and out. The gridiron pattern can also maximize the number of streets, the number of streetfront lots (thus the number of commercial units), as well as the number building rows and lots inside blocks(26)

. The open type of cross-intersection allowing fluent circulation through blocks, thus cause fewer traffic jams.(Fig. 5.1a)

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5.2. Land-use pattern

Generally speaking, a lilong settlement contains housing, circulation and commercial land-use.(Fig. 5.2a)

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1). The Circulation Land-use

The circulation land-use is composed by the network of main lanes and side lanes. The main lane is used as major public passage allowing pedestrian movement or vehicular traffic. They are usually 4 ~ 7m wide, being appropriate for small scale neighborly interaction.

The side lanes are used by every two rows of housing facing onto them as walkways and semi-public open space. From here, residents can access their home. They can also use the side lanes to conduct household activities or neighborly interaction. The side lanes are generally 2 ~ 4m wide. Their intimate scale in relation to the surrounding building mass and their exclusive use by a few residents, make them a quiet and safe open space. The main lanes and side lanes form a clearly structured and evenly distributed circulation network.

2). Commercial Land-Use:

Strip-pattern of commercial land use in periphery of urban blocks, decreases the consolidation of land for large-scale commercial development, and to promote the integration of commercial development with other type of developments. Parks, leisure facilities, education and other public service organization, can be maintained in an appropriate scale in associating with commercial streets, and hence a well-balanced multi-function relationship can be established. Pedestrian accessibility in or out of blocks is improved. Waste or excessive use of open space is diminished.

The randomly-distributed home businesses such as groceries, barber & tailoring shops, cigarette-, newspaper-stands, and fast food sale counters in the circulation and open areas of lilong settlements, have increased the mixed-use character of urban fabric in a given block. This promotes stronger social and economic interweaving within the built environment.

3). Housing Land-use:

Housing land-use is optimized within the block. Protected by surrounding commercial buildings, a self-enclosed, semi-public space appropriate for domestic activities is formed within the given block. The access to it can be positively controlled. Pedestrians inside the block are safe. This improves vitality and frequency of residents' outdoor activities.

4). Other Land-use:

Garages take the left-over, irregular-shaped space, where considered not good for housing.

To summarize, the evenly-distributed commercial development has established a fine grained pattern of urban land-use fabric, in which commercial, residential, circulation, leisurely and other land-use are intensely integrated. The spatial structure of lilong settlement forms along with their surroundings can be kept in reasonable balance. Housing are maximally unitized within the given urban lots, therefore under-used open land can be minimized. Pedestrian accessibility throughout the blocks is improved, and a humane and anti-mobile atmosphere belonging to residential environment can be achieved inside the urban blocks. Furthermore, mixed pattern of commercial and residential land-use has established mutually-supportive relationship between different activities. In this sense more dynamic character can be established in the residential settlements.

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5.3 A comparative study of density & other quantitative aspects of Lilongs with contemporary housing projects:

A significant feature about lilongs is its land-consuming and low-rise pattern. The great degree of ground-relatedness had surely contributed to many good qualities of the settlement form of lilongs. But one must question about the planning goals of lilongs, and how much density it can achieve?

Only by studying the quantitative data of lilongs, and by comparing them with that of common contemporary housing developments, can we achieve a better idea about its capacity of density, the advantages and disadvantages lying within its planning features, and how much price it had paid for its low-rise pattern.

The lilongs chosen for this comparative study consists of the Apartment Lilongs, Garden Lilongs, New-type Lilongs and Shi-ku-men Lilongs. Among them, the New-type and Shi-ku-men Lilongs are prime components and are most representative

The type of projects chosen to compare with lilongs is a group of medium-rise walk-up apartment buildings. It represents the most common housing practice undertaken from 50s to 70s in the outskirts of Shanghai. The author selected An-shan Village II, An-shan Village IV, and Yiou-dian Village. They are located in the northwest of Yang-pu District or Hong-kou District, an area where these type of projects prevailed.(Fig. 5.3a)

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The basic information of these projects are described as follow(27):

1). An-shan Village II:

Land Coverage: 2.66 hectare; Building Coverage Percentage: 15.5%; Built Area Density: 7760 m2/ha; Open Space Density(28) : 1,88m2/1000m2.

An-shan Village II is located in the west end of Yang-pu District in the northeast outskirts of Shanghai, covering a land of 2.66 ha. The surroundings are similar pattern of housing projects, work units' compounds, and a few manufacturers. Some commercial land-use is integrated in the streets. This project is mostly used by employees in the nearby work units, or workers in adjacent manufacturers.

Buildings are four to five-storied concrete structures in a same rectangular layout, with two large communal spaces in the center area (Fig. 5.3b). Distance between buildings is 17m. Every building can be either accessed from the south or the north. No private gardens were initiated in the design stage, however there are some converted ones developed by owners themselves in later stage.

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An-shan Village has three categories of roads for circulation, organized in a hierarchical manner - the first one, 6m wide road is the main vehicular passage; the second one is 3~4m wide bicycles pass; and the third one is 1~2m wide pedestrian. See Fig. 5.3a.

The village almost has no social or economic daily service run by residents after the completion of projects. National social environment had changed, since 1949 privatization was considered as seeds of Capitalism and should be diminished by Socialism. It was after the beginning of 80s, under the open policy, home business are once more encouraged by municipality. However, due to its large-scale building mass and rigid spatial structure, there is less friendly atmosphere in the open space. Small scale commercial activities inside the neighborhood are never active. Other information refer to Diagram. 5.3a & b.

2). An-shan Village IV:

Land Coverage: 1.67 hectare; Building Coverage Percentage: 24.6%; Built Area Density: 4000m2/ha; Open Space Density: 1,891m2/1000m2.

An-shan Village IV, 1.67 ha, is located in a neighboring site of An-shan Village II. Buildings, two-storied in average, has rectangular layout, and are accessible only from the north. Concentrated greenery space is set in the center. Circulation system were clearly structured.(Fig. 5.3c) Two categories of roads are involved, one is 3~4m wide vehicular roads, the other is 1.2 ~ 1.8m wide pedestrian walkways. No home businesses are operated inside the project. Other information refers to Diagram. 5.3a & b.

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3).Yiou-dian Village:

Land Coverage: 1.12 ha; Building Coverage Percentage: 30.5%; Built Area Density: 9160m/2/ha; Open Space Density: 758m2/1000m2.

Yiou-dian Village, 1.12 ha, is located in the east of Hong-kou District, not far from An-shan Village. The surroundings are mostly work units' compounds, educational institutes and their residential areas. The project comprised of three-storied, concrete-slab apartment buildings, aligning in four rows.(Fig. 5.3d)

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Buildings, accessible from the northwest, keeps an identical 11m distance in between. Two categories of roads were constructed - one is 4~5.5m wide vehicular roads, with trees along both sides; the other one is 1.2m pedestrians, paved with prefabricated concrete floor tiles. A few social services have been integrated into the ground floor. Other information refer to Diagram. 5.3a & b.

The above three housing development all have mono-residential character. There were no official commercial land-use involved in the original planning and design stage. Very few public facilities have been integrated.

Diagram 5.3a lists the Building Coverage, Average Story and Built Area Density of all selected projects. Diagram. 5.3b lists the land-use distribution in each category of the public, semi-public, private open space, circulation, and building (housing & commercial, etc.) of the concerned projects.

By comparatively studying the data in Diagram. 5.3a, it is found that the Built Area Density of lilongs, especially that of Shi-ku-men Lilongs, are quite high, but their Open Space Density is very low in comparison to new walk-up housing development

From Diagram 5.3a we can assume that the argument of higher buildings producing higher density is not necessarily right. When the buildings go higher, the building distance has to be kept wider in order to assure appropriate sunlighting condition. Hence a larger proportion of open spaces are created, so are the open space land-use percentage. The question is: how much of these Open Space can be efficiently used? Higher buildings mean lower building coverage percentage, which might hint the waste of open space also increase.

A further study on the land-use pattern of each project in Dia. 5.3b can indicate whether or not a balance between each category of land-use is achieved, and can show us where the problems lies. The medium-rise walk-up housing projects have a large proportion of land distributed in the communal greenery and undefined public open space categories, and have no private land. However these large proportion of public open space may not have sufficient or meaningful function to fulfill, and are not secure and friendly enough to encourage residents to use them efficiently. Hence the undefined open space is, in another words, no-man's land that are seriously under used.

On the contrary, lilongs have very low communal greenery land-use and have no undefined public open space. There is a clear indication in this diagram that, while a large percentage of land were distributed for public use (defined or undefined) in the medium-rise contemporary projects, a significant portion of land-use are identified in the semi-public and private categories in lilongs. Psychological studies tell us that human beings prefer private, secured or humane open space for neighborly interaction, thus an efficient utilization of open space can take place. Also there should be a balance between each category of land-use, thus each category can be better associated and a real efficiency can be achieved. A large portion of public open space permeated in a development can be under-used, but also, a lack of public open space is out of balance .

Contemporary development of placing high buildings in large open land, or modern theory as "Tower in the Park" concept, may not achieve real efficiency since they produce large proportion of open space that are not really used. While the traditional pattern of lilongs, by maximizing the land for building use, had eliminated the waste of open space to a minimum.

Another interesting finding from this diagram is that, the defined semi-public open space of lilongs are used partially as their circulation space. This means their semi-public land-use percentage and their circulation land-use percentage has some overlap in numbers. Since most side lanes in lilongs have dual function, one as circulation walkway and one as semi-public open space. The intimate scale of open space in side lanes enable themselves been positively used for neighborly interaction. Lilongs, by this particular way, optimize its existing limited open land resources, and create extra bonus to its semi-public land-use percentage. However, lack of communal greenery and public open space are shortcoming of lilongs, since these attributes is positively valued by modern standard.

Through the comparative study of density and land-use data of lilongs with mainly contemporary medium-rise walk-up housing developments in Shanghai, we can have a quantitative understanding about what density capacity lilong housing has.

Much more profoundly than merely a density issue, a project has effects on our lives and our cities. The type of contemporary developments bring many issue into debate - Is this a real good way to cultivate our dwelling environment? Is this a real efficient urban form to a city?

In 80s, the municipality of Shanghai had recognized a large shortage in existing housing stock and since then began to launch large housing development comprising mainly high-rise buildings. Built in the outskirts of Shanghai, these kind of development represent the large-scale, comprehensive housing projects prevailed in late 80s and can commonly attain a density of 14,000 m2/ha or even higher.

The large type of high-rise & medium-rise residential developments can be rapidly built under modern construction technology, and generate efficiently large quantity of standardized apartment suites. But there are many side effects of them. The dominating large-scale buildings mass often fail to create a friendly environmental character, or an active street life. It's also found hard to conduct a volunteering safety control by the users themselves. The expenses of cleaning, security and management of these large projects have to be laid on to the duties of the municipality, hence it's more costly. Lack of street life or humane scale of shopping streets also cause stagnation to the social dynamics of a district.

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26. 26 Reference: Michael Southworth, Peter Owens, p19, 1992.

27. 27 These information are provided by Deng Jilai, Master Thesis, 1965.

28. 28 Open Space square meters generated by every 1000 m2 Built Area.

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