Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Graduate City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Associate Professor, Architecture, University of North Carolina / Charlotte
Toward an Asian Sustainable Urbanism: A Comparative Study of Emerging Eco-cities in Japan and China

Japan and China are among the leaders of the current global eco-city movement with their ambitious and systematic eco-city programs to promote sustainable urban development. Widely supported by local governments and the private sector, these national initiatives embody major political agendas responding to the urban and environmental challenges including climate change, energy shortage/safety, urban pollution, and mass urban migration. Japanese government launched the "Eco-Town Project" in 1997 and the "Eco-Model Cities" program in 2008, designating a series of cities on different scales to lead the effort of economic transition toward sustainable industries and developments. China's current massive urbanization, with over 16 million rural residents moving into urban areas each year, has resulted in the building of hundreds of new towns across the country and prompted the governments to promote eco-cities as innovative political strategies and practices under an overarching paradigm of "ecological modernization," which seeks to de-couple economic growth from environmental degradation by incentivizing low-carbon, low-waste urban development. This project studies the planning and development of model eco-cities in Japan and China, using a comparative method to examine their policies and programs, design and development strategies, technological specifics, and social and economic impacts. The strong governmental intervention, along with wide-ranged international collaborations and large scale of projects, has makes Japanese and Chinese eco-city programs particularly notable within this global phenomenon. The practices of planning and building eco-cities are firmly tied to the social and urban patterns characteristic of East Asian society including its living culture, high-density urban environment, and traditional building techniques, which distinguishes them from the original Western concepts and practices of "eco-city." However, there are also substantial differences between Japan and China in terms of their approaches to planning, development, and management of eco-city, which exemplify the important issues in debate about this concept such as new town versus retrofitting old city, top down versus bottom up, and techno-city versus cultural sustainability, as well as the role of "models" in such nationwide urban restructuring. Through an in-depth comparative study of the policies and implementations of eco-cities in Japan and China, and setting them against the Western concepts of "new town" and "eco-city," this research project offers critical insight into the changing ideas of urbanity and modernity in Asian society. Investigating a number of model eco-cities in each country and examining both their successes and challenges, it will enhance understanding of the global issues of sustainability and shed new light on strategies of ecological urbanism. The research will be carried out based on the theory of urbanism and focusing on the reciprocal relationship between policy making and the shaping of physical environment. It thus involves study of important economic and political issues including energy and environmental policies, economic stimulation, reconstruction of post-industrial cities, and social balance and stability, in addition to the core planning issues such as green building, sustainable transportation, and Environmental Performance Indicators systems. The project will lead to a book-length publication tentatively entitled Toward An Asian Sustainable Urbanism.