Thesis (Ph.D)

Locally Responsive Public Open Space Design: Special Reference to Beijing, China


Foreign design ideas and the impact of globalization have long played a strong role in creating and reshaping local urban forms in the past few decades in China. This is especially evident in public open spaces in many Chinese cities due to rapid economic development. Recent urban projects in Beijing specifically have shown limited responsiveness to local context and needs of users. This is due to a political focus on financial returns, and has resulted in the proliferation of homogeneous ‘anywhere places’. Therefore, the aim of this research is to develop a conceptual framework and methodology for defining principles for locally responsive public open spaces in Beijing. The conceptual framework developed for this study is based on a review of key literature from both global and local sources, to define locally responsive public open spaces in the context of Beijing. Furthermore, the methodology establishes the relationship between traditional philosophies and contemporary thinking, and integrates urban morphology and other methods into the process. Eleven areas were visited and three neighbourhoods were chosen to study local perceptions of public open spaces across historical, early modern and contemporary scenarios. 90 residents and key decision makers were involved for identifying the needs and interests of various urban actors that make them possible to explore relevant topics through case study and different stages of developments in the city. By employing an Inquiry by Design approach, the proposals were developed and tested with key decision makers in order to formulate final recommendations. The research findings define the intrinsic meanings of public open space in the specific case of Beijing. They provide a set of recommendations to achieve local responsive public open spaces at different morphological layers and types of open spaces. Finally, they establish new conceptualisations of local responsiveness and methodologies based on the unique Chinese context. Therefore, the main contributions to the knowledge are the conceptual framework for exploration of locally responsive public open space design, and a methodology for investigating the qualities and levels of local responsiveness in these spaces. Both of which are potentially transferable to other Chinese cities that seek guidance on addressing issues in similar urban forms.

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Liu, Huiming


Supervisors: Butina-Watson, Georgia; Lim, Regina Mapua

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment


Year: 2019

© Liu, Huiming
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