Diwen Tan

Inclusive Urbanism: neglected social-ecological values in urban villages as lived spaces in Shenzhen

Inclusive urban development emphasises shared prosperity by engaging people of difference. But it is often simplified and narrowed to resource and service accessibility of marginalised groups in urban planning and design, which impedes the broader concept of recognition and respect of difference, or rather, social-ecological diversities. This doctoral research explores the social-ecological values sustained in Chinese urban villages and their implications for inclusive urban development. The rapid urbanisation in China has seen that urban villages act as resistance to the standardised urban planning and generic urban scenes. Offering social opportunities to migrants while retaining spatial patterns that harbour moral and cultural traditions, the islands of villages probably can function as an alternative urban landscape characterised by a mingling of rural and urban identities. By studying urban villages, this research seeks to introduce a new approach that reveals space qualities and implicit values in the Chinese cultural context and provide new thoughts on the term ‘inclusiveness’ in particular as a concept used for spatial strategies. 

The research uses a mixed-method approach, combining architectural ethnography, in-depth interviews, and archival sources. It maps the spatial-social interactions of diverse groups of people (in terms of age, ethnicity, and migrant background) in urban villages to analyse implicit values. As a case study, the research takes Shenzhen, a metropolis located in Pearl River Delta in southern China. 


Inclusiveness, cultural practices, spatial planning, urban villages, Shenzhen (China)


Diwen Tan is a PhD candidate (2021-2025) in the Spatial Planning and Strategy section, Department of Urbanism. Her particular interests are in cultural landscapes and inclusive urbanism which are rooted in her education and career development. She completed her B.Sc. in Physics at Hunan Normal University, China and M.Sc. in Sustainable Energy Systems at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She then worked at UN Environment Programme for about 6 years (focusing on ecosystem management and climate adaptation in developing countries) before perusing an advanced M.Sc. in Human Settlements at KU Leuven (graduating with magna cum laude in 2020). 

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