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Collective Forms: Neighbourhood Transformations, Spatialised Governmentality and New Communities in China

Principal Investigator:

Dr Sam Jacoby, Senior Tutor, Royal College of Art

Co-Applicants: Professor Tan Gangyi, Professor and Vice Dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Huazhong University of Science and Technology; Professor He Xuefeng, Cheung Kong Scholar Chair Professor and Dean of Department of Sociology, Wuhan University; Tang Yan, Associate Professor of School of Architecture, Tsinghua University


This research examines how social projects, spaces, and realities shape three contexts critical to understanding urban design and planning in China: modes of governmentality; the history of collective spatial development models in relation to current community development; and socio-spatial changes in urban and rural developments. A comparative analysis of community developments in China and a programme of knowledge exchange will study how a national collectivisation in the 1950s created rural people’s commune and urban workunit systems that laid the foundations to today’s urban problems.Their socio-spatial design, despite extensive policy reforms since 1978, continue to control access to public infrastructures and services, but also created resilient governance and community-building models.

The effects of spatial transformations of governmentality are little researched by urban designers and require a new interdisciplinary approach that offers alternatives to Western-centric theory and practice. This is of global relevance, including the UK and its new community-led developments.

Old housing district of the Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, China

Old housing district of the Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, China

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