Urbanie & Urbanus

Issue 2019 Sep

Place Identity

Issue 2, P.11 - P.19

City and place identity in SIP Suzhou: Re-learning forgotten lessons from modern western urban design theory

Raffaele Pernice

Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Urbanism
University off New South Wales - Faculty of Built Environment


The impressive urban growth of China in the last few decades has been largely based on a sustained and state-sponsored economic development which by financing infrastructure development, fostering industrial and manufacturing production, and promoting an aggressive campaign to modernize the country, has deliberately pursued economic and social policies aimed at concentrating activities and people and reshaping and redesign many urban areas of the cities, with the result that the urban landscapes are changing rapidly, with mixed results, but at the cost of neglecting the safeguarding of the genuine spirit and still valuable features of the local places. Reflecting on the recent urban transformation in Suzhou, the paper intends to stress the importance of re-learning the lessons taught by a few highly influential architects and planners, and how the rediscovery of their theses and principles could be a precious resource to look at in order to initiate a different discourse on the design of vibrant, meaningful and beautiful urban spaces more in tune with the local identity.