Visual Analysis To City Presentations Commerce Essay


According to city brand analysis in previous chapter and city design principles, I propose three criteria of visual analysis to city presentation

1. Whether the space is 'imageable' or legible.

According to Lynch, an 'imageable' city is well-formed, distinct and remarkable. It would 'invite the eye and the ear to greater attention and participation. The sensuous grasp upon such surroundings would not merely be simplified, but also extended and deepened'. He chooses to use the word imageable because it is a 'quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer.' (1960:10) While legibility has the same meaning and used a lot in other city rebranding projects like the Bristol Legible City 'improve people's understanding and experience of the city through the implementation of identity, information and transport projects integrated with artist's work.' (Bristol City Council, 2003))

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Lynch also suggests five criteria for legibility (1995).

1. 'Vivid differentiated elements' can be conceived by majority of adults and suitable for them

2. The structured image can be legible in general level as well as in at deeper and detailed level

3. The image can be seen differently by people with different desires and capabilities.

4. The image must be adaptable in change and growth of the environment.

5. The image must be able associated to functional and social organization.

We can formulate that working according to Lynch's criteria can ensure: 1) everyone can understand the communication, 2) few mistake will occur wherever the image is present by any channel,3)the image is suitable for creative people and encouraging their thinking, 4)the image is consistent but easy to adapt in different environment and background and 5)the image will be useful for various organization in the city.

2. Whether the place has aesthetic value and specific feature that express identity or local attractions

Although glass exterior and smooth and simple architecture represents modern and prosperous, buildings with local and cultural feature are still more likeable by people as long as its interior and function is as good as the previous ones. Landry, who dedicated in researching 'culture of creativeness' in city development, asserts that 'the International Style, for all the beauty of its best work, had the damaging effect of making our cities more uniform and bland' (1996). Building with local style is more interesting and imaginable which of course more inspiring to creative people.

The local architectural style of Foshan is called Lingnan style. Lingnan is a geographic area referring to lands in the south of China's "Five Ranges" which are Tayu, Qitian, Dupang, Mengzhu, Yuecheng. The region covers the Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces of modern China and northern Vietnam. Although this style exists in quite board area, Foshan as a rather prosperous town since 1400 with the good name of four ancient towns, thus it keeps more complex and delicate architectural style than other cities with more wealthy residence and prosperous commerce.

Except for some traditional style shared by other Chinese buildings, Lingnan style has the following features: The rooves are mainly slated-colour or yellow-glazed while the walls are laid with grey brick. As residence, the roof is called Guo'er (wok handle) because it looks like the wok handle. Guo'er was the privilege for upper class people showing their higher status in society. For common citizens, Tianjing as a small space with a big pottery vat filling with water is necessary for the hot weather and risk of fire. The space is inside the house without roof. All the house has triple gates, the outer one called Pingfeng(screen), the centre one Tanglong (sliding bar) and then is the main gate. Tanglong is the biggest feature for resident house both for safety and ventilation. As stores, qilou (riding floor) is the biggest feature. Qilou is like an English arcade with one side facing to the street. This is especially suitable for climate in Lingnan as double function: heavy rain and blazing sunshine.

Guo'er Tanglong Qilou


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These unique architectural details represent local identity and memory. They are also the elements creative request for inspiration. It is also valuable resource for city branding and regeneration because these 'in-built advantages and textured layers of history and built remains to work with in projecting their uniqueness and specialness.'(Landry, 2000)

3. Whether the places facilitate and encourage creative activity.

Activity endows meaning to a place and a place in turn can influence activity. 'Hard' condition can affect creativity such as accessibility and safety for a place. This essay will discuss more on 'soft' condition to assess whether the place is likable, encouraging communication and inspiring including working, living and entertaining places.

In this essay only visual elements of places are discussed with actual case analysis responding to unique situation and culture of Foshan. It is worthy to note that these visual elements from culture are not just marginal add-on but should be taken into overall consideration of urban design.

4. Whether this place accord with the actual local acceptability and specialty.

In the process of catch up with developed countries in city development, many cities choose to learn experience or even copy the model from western countries, which made some of the newer projects look unharmonious for local visual presentation. In addition, currently most megacity in the world located in a higher latitude with more pleasant climate. Distinctive city scene like outdoor coffee shop and grassland for those cities is inappropriate for Foshan. Even there is comment found on internet that planning grassland is a way of cheating and saving cost for government. No one wants to stay on the grassland with few trees in most time of the year with temperature over 33 degrees centigrade.

B. Visual analysis for physical presentation in classification

Before detailed analysis for case of Foshan, the study of city design of Leeds give us a clue of how to evaluate a place on and beyond architectural criticism.

The 'Leeds Look' is a set of unwritten design principles which the city planning authority of Leeds ensured the developers to follow during the late 1980s. Under these principles, 'a series of prominent buildings were established exhibiting the same exterior usage of red brick, York stone for lintels, sills and other such details, slate roof, and Tuscan towers, pitch-roofs and window openings.' (Julier, 2008) This action equates building with urban identity. 'The exterior surface of a building, rather than its internal spatial arrangement and functional use, is privileged as the carrier of that identity.' (Julier, 2008)

The 'Leeds Look' mainly focuses on architecture, while this was soon superseded by 'Landmark Leeds' initiative which emphasizes designing Landmarks such as urban furniture to create sense of place. The style of the street furniture are mainly powder-coated steel, aluminum subbing and granite which turns shift Leeds's image from 'a northern industrial town to major cosmopolitan centre' .The core of this initiative is changed to the more 'holistic experience of seating, signage, sounds and smells.' The 'design hardware' is for encouraging and surrounding the more 'intimate, visceral experience of eating, drinking, dancing and socializing acts'(Julier, 2008)

Lessons learned forms the Leeds case are that architectural exteriors of buildings can be an important source of city identity. This can be built through unified planning disregard of the interior and function of buildings. For the case of Foshan, this identity can be found in its historical architectural features. Secondly, Street furniture is important way of building sense of place. It helps to add distinct feature to a place and also encourage people to use the public place for adding fun and atmosphere. Thirdly, the action and habit of residence is also part of the visual analysis. Design of street and public space should encourage the creative exchange between people.

The following passages will analyze Foshan from street, landscape, public space to skyline.

1. Street and landscape

Berman (1983) argue that rebuilding Paris brought fourth a modern experience of the city: the wide boulevards not only facilitate rapid troop movements, but also provided 'sweeping vistas of the cityscape so that each walks included dramatic visual effects.' He contends that the street provide a 'scenery for the middle-class stroller to see and be seen, the deprived and destitute having been removed from the action altogether.'(Julier, 2008: 126)

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The street therefore is a place for people for visual enjoyment and activity. Walking on the street, people can appreciate both static and kinetic visual drama if the street is designed with aesthetic guidance. Smith's arguments of four intuitive capacities for aesthetic appreciation are appropriate criteria for analysis to street and groups of architecture in a district which includes 'sense of rhyme and pattern, appreciation of rhythm, recognition of balance and sensitivity to harmonic relationship'. (Carmona et al, 2008)

The Zumiao pedestrian street built five years ago in Foshan tries to achieve the four components at the same time to build an archaistic street with distinct Lingnan identity. The use of grey columns and black balustrades form the basic rhyme and rhythm. While the roof with a little difference and details provide remarkable elements which avoid monotony and create balance. The distance of columns is not the same for practical reasons of varied size of shops to rent while considering overall harmony. The harmony also came from the unified style of shops by using Lingnan style banana and decoration when keeping their own corporate identity.

Zumiao Pedestrian Street

If building such big scale archaistic street is costly and not really welcomed by people persisting that archaistic is a lie and valueless. Designing distinct street furniture will be more cost-effective and adorable.

'The seats, lighting poles and balustrades were doing more than providing a perch or a leaning-post for weary shoppers, therefore. They seemed to be conspiring to redefine urban identity through their form. They are architectural detailing, but they are also part of a graphic treatment of the cityscape. They are about communication……the multiculturalism, flows, inequalities and disunities of urban living are strangely harmonized in this seemingly modern space.'(Julier, 2008)

Street furniture on Jihua Road

This street furniture is found on the busiest business road in Foshan. The bench above is designed according to Lingnan rockery while the rubbish bin is inspiring from stone drum - a decoration or base for vase in the garden. As detailing on the street, they add cultural and amusement element to busy street life. However, sometimes it looks awkward in the background of glass skyscraper. It is still necessary for designer to consider the holistic and harmony factor for the street furniture with traditional factor in modern surroundings. The design of these series of street furniture is just reproduction of Lingnan features. A design with legible identity but less evident expression to Lingnan style will be more inspiring and natural to surroundings.

Promotion Centre of Lingnan Xintiandi

The Promotion Centre of Lingnan Xintiandi (which will be discussed later) is a rather successful case of infusing traditional bamboo curtain and modern glass wall. The reason might be its planting bamboo around the building at the same time; it is not a reproduction or archaic building, but a trendy shop like the Apple glass box in New York; the combination of new and old is exactly the corporate

Public art is in a sense also a form of street furniture. It is important for public art to represent the public but not the ego of artist and even intelligence of professional and elite. The theme of public art can be the past of the history, the current of citizens' life and the vision of future. In the past, Foshan as ancient town established too many sculptures on the past to representing the city. However, most of these sculptures stays in the stage of depicting reality (just as evident as the street furniture discussed before) and rarely raise interests of even common citizens and tourist, not to mention appreciated by creative people. For the strategy of becoming creative city, creating public art combining local identity, aesthetic value and inspiring expression is vital.

Foshan artist have tried to produce such public art but it provoke big controversy. The art work Toilet Bowl Waterfall is built for Portray and Ceramic Festival 2009 for promoting the event. Although toilet and bath products made from ceramic is an important and superior product for Foshan, many people still think it is not enhance the city image of Foshan but even make Foshan a laughing stock. Critics consider it actually has no aesthetic value with bad association with actual use of the bowl, although this may remind creative people the urinal handed to committee by Duchamp in 1917. However, one cannot deny that this artwork is a successful marketing promotion to the festival because when the astounding visual impact of the artwork make it spread quickly in Internet. There is question remained to be discussed here: different from artwork placed in museum, should artwork that is likely to provoke public disgust placed in public space? How to balance between hype for increasing awareness and 'healthy' image for the city? Few people notice that this artwork is just an extension of previous artwork Vat Waterfall (vat a utensil made by portray, another important product for Foshan) of the artist producing for the 1506 City. It is more pleasant for appreciation but obvious receive less attention.

Toilet Bowl Waterfall Vat Waterfall


To answer these questions Landry et al has proposed some criteria of good public art:

• They engage people's creativity, and so lead to problem solving.

• They are about meanings, and enable dialogue between people and social groups.

• They encourage questioning, and the imagination of possible futures.

• They offer self-expression, which is an essential characteristic of the active citizen.

• They are unpredictable, exciting and fun.

(Landry et al, 1996)

Based on these criteria, the toilet bowl waterfall has completed its function of arousing questioning and debate with entertainment and surprise elements. The quick post and broadcasting on internet enable many people know the work and take part in discussion. For people consider this will damage the image of Foshan, at least this action indicate the endeavor and tolerance to Foshan developer and government. For crating successful partnership with arts and urban design and regeneration, understanding the objective of the city and innovative understanding of culture is more vital than pure aesthetic values

2. Public space

Public spaces include physical and virtual places. We only discuss physical one here which are both a physical setting and arena for citizen communication. It includes meeting space and occasions from informal to formal. It helps develop creativity because it allows people to go beyond their own circle of family, professional and social relations.' (Landry, 2000) The public place is important in urban space as 'creative hub' and 'The third place' outside work place and family by Ray Oldenburg as they are place for relaxing, gathering and inspiring (Florida, 2002).

How to endow this space with local identity and make it inspiring? In city branding analysis part, we find the local juicy and milk tea bar culture instead of coffee culture in western culture. Nevertheless, creating outdoor places like Café in Rome is impractical for Foshan because the popular season for this kind of bars is in very hot summer and few want to stay in open air without air condition. Public space in large shopping malls is more realistic. The peculiar nightlife of late night snack is more worth to consider. Such place should be suitable for late night opening without blocking the traffic and raising hygienic problem. That is also communication about the interesting of this late night snack place and a chance to improve the environment and image of these places: the past: delicious, cheap but dirty and dark in unsafe areas. To become a distinctive, relaxing place for creative people to have delicious food and comfortable gathering after long day of work.

General speaking, Florida has proposed 'amenities' of place for creative people and has research on focus groups of creative worker. He finds out the focus group is emphasize on lifestyle with environmental and recreational quality than job market. Below is the result of the focus group defining amenities:

Large number of visibly active young people

Easy access to wide range of outdoor activity

A vibrant music and performance scene with a wide range of live music opportunities

A wide range of night-life experiences, including many options without alcohol

A clean, healthy environment and commitment to preserving natural resources for enjoyment and recreation

A lifestyle that is youth-friendly and supportive of diversity.

(Florida, 2005)

Using these criteria to scrutinize the public space in Foshan we find out:

We have quite a few public spaces for young people for having sports and events such as small parks in the community and beside the street. The problem is some of the places are too small and too near roads with heavy traffic or has little space for spectator.

Place for outdoor activity is popular while it has limitation in summer for Foshan with high temperature and frequent heavy rain. Especially when the summer and rainy season last for more than half a year. When considering outdoor space, free indoor and half indoor area with shade is suggested for the most popular sport among young people: badminton.

Music performance and stage is set in the square in front of big shopping malls. But most of these activities are not inclusive enough for young people to take part in but just simple interaction such as Q&A. A place like the Canada Square Park in Canary Wharf in London is recommended for its relax and free music stage and auditorium - a grassland under walls of skyscrapers.

In England, the naturalness can be brought through hanging flowers on the pole while it is impossible for hot and heavy evaporated Foshan. Therefore grassland is not as popular as area with a big banyan in the middle of the square or park. For Foshan citizen, nothing is more present than dense trees for preventing blazing sunshine. As trees is not easy to plan or plant as grassland, the planting plan should be cautious and allow less change. As some of the roads and square of Foshan suffer from frequent construction old tree cutting, with only small tree seedlings and even no trees left after construction.

For diversity of activity, the public place should consider function of activity. For example, cosplay needs keeping changing clothes and cosmetic, the relevant facility should be enough.

Canada Square Park in Canary Wharf Asian Art Park in Foshan

3. Skyline and waterfront

The skyline of a city is the first city impression for many people. The Manhattan skyscraper and the Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco are among the most distinctive skyline, as if skyline is privilege for modern metropolitan. The original meaning of skyline is the contact line between sky and building, no wonder skyline of city always link to super tall buildings. However, is this kind of skyline suitable for every city? Of course this is not true. Metropolitan Beijing always boasts about its skyline of golden tiles of Forbidden City responding to blue sky. Thanks to suggestion of I.M. Pei of gradually raising the height of buildings around Forbidden City, the peculiar golden tile skyline is kept.

Foshan has thought about its characteristic skyline as a modern but relaxing city by insisting the policy of not constructing highway in the downtown as Guangzhou. Referring to many famous skylines are shot the background of waterfront buildings, the planner of Foshan has recognized the importance of the two main river bank areas recent years. The old river Fenjiang is the cradle of Foshan culture and memories for citizens before heavy industry pollution to the river in 1970. After improvement of water quality in recent years, the regeneration of this area should be focus on retaining cultural factors and traditional local flavor. Instead of building modern high buildings, public space like squares and parks are more reasonable and brings more visual pleasant. Losing its original function of transportation, the river can be used as venue of Dragon boat racing: a typical sport involves a lot of people take part in and watching. These water activities also visually add vigor of the water and the city for better visual communication about the variety of city life.

The new Dongping River bank area is virgin soil providing great chance for developing and requires more prudent planning for the skyline. The starting line is perfect with the symbolic Century Lotus Sports Center and trendy Dongping Bridge for showing the grand and modern of the city. This area is mainly planned for residence and business building. The developers and their architects design numerous gorgeous community and business buildings. For the harmonious skyline line, two points should be taken into account.

Is it obligatory to have an overall design principle as 'Leeds Looks'? Currently every developer build the community according to their own corporate identity and taste without considering the feature of the city since many developers are multicity base. Therefore these communities are weak at presenting the city. What's more, the use of color and style is different without agreeable mix and match. There was a suggestion of setting a unique colour of the city for all buildings to follow, but it is hard to apply in reality.

These community plans perfect inside the community with garden and public space, yet every community present as a 'castle' to outsider with buildings surrounds. Since most of the community limits access to non-residence for security, these public spaces and art are not really public for all citizens. Should the government propose that is community at least place some of its public art for access to all citizens or consider more about their outer demonstration for the whole city?

C. Visual analysis for two creative urban regeneration project in Foshan.

As fast developed and a daring city always follow catch up with the tide of advance idea and practice, Foshan has launched a few creative project for changing its industrial structure and becoming a more creative city. For the following two cases, one has provoked a lot of opposition in the construction period, while one is suffering from a bottleneck period. What are their merits and faults in using visual communication? What are the lessons to be learned and what is the space of improvement?

1. Lingnan Xintiandi

As population is growing and transformation of industry, newer part of the city is booming while the older part is declining for factors such as backward transportation, dilapidated view and scarce infrastructure. The lack of maintain to old buildings make it lose the beauty of ancient but only dilapidation and inconvenience are left. The Lingnan Xintiandi (Xintiandi means new world) project combines unique traditional culture with modern leisure life in a commerce, residence and business community centred with Lingnan Style shopping area. The focus dimensions of the project are culture, tourism, commerce and leisure. The project covers an area of 0.63 km2 in the most dense and complete history and cultural area in Foshan with loads of temples, residence, shops, tea rooms and assembly houses. The developer of this project has already succeeding in many similar projects around China including the famous attraction and community Shanghai Xintiandi which famous for its 'reconstructing old as old' with art as its selling point. It is also the most popular meeting point among artist and foreigners in Shanghai.

It is part of the government project of the controversial 'three oldness reconstruction' -- reconstruction of old downtown, resident house and factory which began with big scale demolition of old buildings. The senior citizens get used to life and community in the old city think the project get them rid of their familiar community. The common citizens regard developers raise the price of residence by building new and dense resident community. Even some creative and educated people consider that the project damage the local flavor of the old downtown.

After interviewing staff in management department, Dongjian Group Co. Ltd., the developer of Pujun Xincheng (see appendix 1), the project next to Lingnan Xintiandi, we find out this project is a really advanced and appropriated project itself but it lacks effective and legible communication to citizens.

The merit of the Shanghai Xintiandi:

The project is cooperated by a big and experienced developer and the government which allow more resource and policy acknowledgment from the government. Therefore has the 'responsibility of showing image of Foshan' according to Zhao. The objective of creating visually attractive community with local identity is quite clear.

The centre shopping area is built totally according to Lingnan style with some of the heritage buildings remained as museums and culture centre.

The centre shopping area is in low density that all the buildings has less than three storeys with several squares, parks and pedestrians as the old Lingnan community.

With more resource and objective for showing city image, the developer tries very hard to preserve and strengthen some of the building. Zhao explains 'For buildings cannot be reinforced, many valuable decoration part of building is kept and will be add on later. This actually cost more than building something new. For example, demolish one original grey brick from the old building is more expensive than buy a new one'.

This is a holistic project considering both cultural but also economic factors according to the blueprint below.

The blueprint of Lingnan Xintiandi, credit by Zhao

Since it seems solve many problems of downtown regeneration and has elements as creative centre with cultural factors remains, why it still provoke controversies among citizens? Many people reckon that rebuilt old buildings or building new buildings as archaistic style has little historic value. They consider this project demolish too many historical buildings which cannot be rebuilt. Actually, most of these buildings except some documented heritage building are in dilapidated condition with outdated facility; their residence has no budget and idea for the maintenance. Zhao acclaims: 'the old buildings with history deserve to be preserved. But it is not the common residence house with just a few decades of history.' However, these massages cannot be sent out properly. For such a big project, it is impossible for citizens to access to detailed floor plan and explanation. The floor plan on many news website and even on the developers' website defies reading with for blur printing and small scales. Zhao insists 'It is useless for us to upload floor plans and project on websites because they don't have legal effect. They are welcomed to ask questions in relevant departments.' However, how can this slow and troubling method catch up with the speed of internet communication? There is more negative comment by citizens in forums with compelling photos of demolishing buildings which give citizens the impression that the developer is doing everything just for their own profit without considering preserving history and culture.

Suggestion and lesson on this case is communication about the project is necessary both on internet and in the future design of the community. If these inspiring and local place elements cannot be delivered to citizens through visual legibility or the citizens cannot percept the direct benefit from the project, the project will lose its original meaning of cultural regeneration.

2. 1506 City

Opposite to the Xintiandi project, 1506 City as a creative quarter performs much better on visual communication. But it has a less advantage than Xintiandi in location and function. Xintiandi is in downtown and has residence and shops for sell which is for the growing housing marketing. 1506 City as a pioneer in Foshan with fledgling in creative industry obviously suffers from more market risk.

The background of establishing this project is that portray and ceramic enterprises and factories are moving out of Foshan from 308 in 2008 to 42 in 2009(CCTV, 2009). Only R&D centers and empty factories plant are left. The 1506 City is such a project for regenerating the factory area and providing creative environment and platform for creative people. It is situated in Ancient Nanfeng Kiln, the wood firing kiln that has been functional for over five centuries since 1506, the only such a kiln in the world. The project has remarkably transformed eight shut down factories heavily polluted from their previous operations. Except for design, media and consultancy company, the creative city also hold major events with themes such as portray and ceramic, and intangible cultural heritage.

The core concept of the project is turning 'hen roost' into 'phoenix nest' proposed by Dailun Qiu, the head of developer (CCTV, 2009). That is changing the industry area into creative quarter in order to attract talent for the transform of industry.

The creative city learns practice from creative quarters in western country such as Custard factory and 798 Art Zone in Beijing. There is not even one new building and all buildings are decorated or rebuilt on original factory plant with original feature and layout. The features include gantry, iron gate and hanging beam. The function of buildings is changed into shops, studio or venue for commerce, exhibition and education. The dulling factory district it decorated with cultural and fresh element to create and comfortable and cultural environment. The architectural feature combines industrial heritage and modern function and detail to form inspiring space.

The city is good at communication with good design websites and wide range of media cover. However, the city has entered a bottleneck period that many studios are shutting down. According to simple interview of relevant developers and artist, problems on visual presentations sides are as follow:

Imitating too much on design and concept of successful projects in other big city such as Beijing and Shenzhen without considering actual situation in Foshan. The environment lack vitality and easy to get tired.

Although the idea of 'phoenix nest' for attracting creative people has been realized by the developer. But most artists still prefer to go to cities like Shenzhen for bigger art market. For other creative people working in office, pleasant working environment is not only a few artworks around the corner in this age. The design of office and relaxing space like café is also important for creative ideas.

The lack of enough trendy art scenes and exhibitions venue or museum. Most of the public art and products in the creative city are still the same with that in 19th and 20th century of depicting folk and myth. The museum inside the creative city is a traditional art and craft museums lack fresh air. The creative city as place especially for creative people can go further in art complexity and innovation than the urban centre facing common citizens. A Tate Britain is not enough for a creative quarter; a Tate Modern will be more inspiring and boosting the synthesis of art and commerce.

The before and after of 1506 Creative City