Zhongnan Yang


Spatial Differentiation: The Resident Retention Mode in the Pingjiang Road District of Suzhou Old City

Advised by Susan N. Snyder and George E. Thomas

The concept of historic district conservation in China has its specific context under the neoliberal urbanization that embraces both market influence and authoritarian control. Moreover, it is expected to create an experience of modern consumption and to promote an awareness of traditional culture. In order to better preserve the “authenticity” of historic districts, the resident retention mode has been created as a method of advocating for conservation as it retains part of the residential land use instead of turning the whole district into a commercial zone. Thus, the retention of residents not only preserves the “authentic,” intimate community but also eliminates what Michael Herzfeld terms “spatial cleansing.” Through my research of two case studies, however, I found that although the residential land has been kept in the conservation scheme, a high level of spatial differentiation exists between the retained communities and the outsiders. The two cases from different urban scales unpack the spatial differentiation from different perspectives. One is the district level of the Pingjiang Road historic district; the other is the city level of Suzhou Old City, where the Pingjiang district is located. The research finally shows that, with the priority of modern tourism in historic conservation schemes, local citizens are “consumed” by culture consumption through spatial marginalization or isolation, which ultimately disadvantages their economic and social status.

Zhongnan Yang, MDes. Aerial photograph of a city, with tall skyscrapers in the distance and smaller-scale residential neighborhoods in the foreground.
Zhongnan Yang, MDes. Streetscape on Pingjiang Road. This photo shows an elderly woman retains the habit of doing the laundry by the canal, even if there has been running water at home.
Zhongnan Yang, MDes. Pearson Analysis. These maps show the geographic relationship between national designated historic cities and relevant economic indexes.
Zhongnan Yang, MDes. Service Types. This map shows the geographic distribution of different service types in the Pingjiang district. Pingjiang Road is occupied by tourism-oriented businesses while routine services are scatted on the edge of the site.
Zhongnan Yang, MDes. This map visualizes the regional economic performance in Suzhou. The length of red bars represents regional GDP as a percentage of the municipality’s, and the blue bars represent Per Capita GDP in each region. From the mapping, Gusu district has the worst performance in both