Urbanization in the East Asian Region

The purpose of this seminar is to provide an overall account of the urbanization in selected cities within the East Asian region; to characterize relevant political traditions and forms of planning administration affecting urbanization there; and to depict prevalent patterns of urbanization, including illustration at appropriate levels, such as district, block and building type, in addition to traditional forms of settlement. The questions being addressed are whether there is a distinctive form to urbanization within the East Asian region, or whether it is largely a matter of satisfying demands for rapid urban expansion within the ambit of internationally-available building technology? Are there common problems and opportunities accompanying urbanization within the East Asian region, or is each place sufficiently different so as to defy unitary characterization? And, finally, what special challenges are presented for architecture and urban design in the region and are they any different from challenges that might be confronted in other parts of the world? The principal cities in question are Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo, and while each is certainly distinctive they do all share certain common characteristics. For instance, many have had colonial influences in the past; each has grown recently, or is in the process of growing and modernizing rapidly, as well as going through \’boom and bust\’ cycles; and, both independently and collectively, they seem to define, at least in part, the \’East Asian City\’ phenomenon. There are also differences. For example, governmental attitudes towards social costs vary from place to place, as have external and internal influences on urban development and urban-architectural expression. Moreover, developments in some cities under examination have also influenced other cities in the region. For further illustrative purposes, digressions will also be made into other smaller cities within the region, especially among mid-sized Chinese cities like Suzhou, Wenzhou and Wuhan.