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Title: Spontaneous Commercial Establishments in China’s World City

Authors: Pu Hao*, Hong Kong Baptist University
Topics: China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The built environment of modern cities is largely shaped by urban planning rather than spontaneous development. While whether planned urban space adequately accommodates human needs remains heatedly debated, the increasing complexity of urban development continues to challenge the competence of planners and policy makers. In Chinese cities, given the rigid control of land use and development, planning generally goes undisputed. However, the distribution of urban activities is increasingly redirected by market forces, leading to unplanned, spontaneous development. Most commonly seen are various commercial establishments that have emerged spontaneously within and around the planned fabric of the urban environment, such as a convenience store popping up at the corner façade, a hair salon opened in the roadside garage and a studio concealed in an apartment building. Despite the downsides of these establishments, they not only meet market demand that is unheeded in city plans, but they also facilitate entrepreneurial endeavors for individuals who cannot afford regular premises. This paper presents empirical findings on the spatiality of spontaneous commercial establishments in urban village neighborhoods in Shenzhen, where the construction and utilization of buildings are beyond the control of planning or building codes. The configuration and distribution of unbridled commercial development are examined with respect to the intrinsic structure of the buildings and neighborhoods that accommodate such activities as well as the land, labor, consumption, and capital markets within and beyond the neighborhoods.

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