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Towards a New Method of Comparative Urbanism for Theory Extension: Public Art Planning in Shanghai and Vancouver

Authors: Jane Zheng*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: comparative urbanism, public art planning, Shanghai, Vancouver
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper experiments with a new research method of comparative urbanism. It aims to develop an understanding of informal practices in public art planning system in metropolitan cities across the Global South and North, using Shanghai and Vancouver as two cases for comparative study. With full awareness of the complexities of the two cities, this research avoids directly comparing the art policies, public art planning approaches and the urban outcomes of the art scenes. Instead, it derives a theory (dubbed as “cultural elite state”) from public art planning in Shanghai first and proceeds with a comparison of the urban conditions which set the presumptions of the “cultural elite state” model. Consequently, a revised hypothetic model tailored to the Vancouver context is proposed, which guides the succeeding empirical work in Vancouver.

The rational of this methodological experiment is the planetary approach to contemporary urbanist studies (Roy, 2011; Roy and Ong, 2011). Roy (2001; 2005; 2009) unfolds the way in which the Global South envisions world-class city making and this may have implications for our understanding of cities in the Global North.

The “cultural elite state” model accounts for how an interplay between state-led hegemony and informality affects public art plan making and implementation in Shanghai. By extending this model to Vancouver, this research will 1) illuminate the extent to which theories derived from the Global South is valuable for theory building in the Global North and 2) sheds light on the public art planning and outcomes as part of Vancouver’s urbanism.

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