The Bartlett School of Planning


Jingyi Zhu

Research Subject

Thesis title: Exploring the role of public space in Shanghai’s urban transformation: Visionary narratives and everydayness in the quest for global excellence.

Primary supervisor: Professor Matthew Carmona
Secondary supervisor: Dr Pablo Sendra
Sponsor: UCL -ORS
Starting date: September 2017
Completion date: May 2021

Shanghai is entering a new urban regeneration phase, stressing a more people-oriented development approach whilst continuing its quest for national and global prominence. Against this backdrop, the research seeks to understand the role of public space development in Shanghai’s transformation as part of its ‘excellent global city’ vision. In doing so, the research examines the socio-economic and cultural meanings underpinning public spaces in this context; explores the design practices and discourses around new public space projects; and untangles how public spaces bridge the ‘excellent global city’ vision and the city realities.

This research adopts a process-oriented approach and builds a heuristic ‘order-sociality’ model of publicness to aid analysis. Utilising qualitative data collection methods including document review, observation, and semi-structured interview, the empirical study is twofold. First, a typology of public space is formulated to pinpoint key meanings of public spaces in the specific urban context of Shanghai. Second, two in-depth case studies, the 45 km Huangpu River Waterfront Public Space Connection Project and the ‘Walking in Shanghai’ community public space micro-regeneration scheme are used to investigate the material and discursive processes of these key public space projects.

Through empirical evidence, the research summaries three roles of public space development in the current urban transformation of Shanghai. In addition to i) serving its utilitarian everyday ends, public space ii) acts as a material test ground to confront spatial challenges associated with macro urban transformation processes, for example by promoting desirable practices through exemplary projects. Finally, iii) public space projects can help push key narratives associated with urban regeneration, notably the need for a people-oriented urban environment and civil engagement, although this does not mean that such ideals are always translated positively on the ground. Ultimately, public spaces in Shanghai – as elsewhere – are embedded in existing power relations, and their publicness is dominated by the needs, ambitions and associated narratives of powerful urban actors.


Trained as an architect, Jingyi’s research interests include urban design and public space, design governance, social interaction and urban space, and the study of design practice. She works with Professor Carmona and Dr Sendra for her research at Bartlett School of Planning, focusing on public space in Chinese context.

Jingyi received her Bachelor’s degree in town and country planning from Tongji University in 2014. In 2016, she received her first Master’s degree from Politecnico di Milano (cum laude) in urban design and policy making, and in 2017 received her second Master’s degree from Tongji University in urban planning, with dissertations titled ‘Designing Urban Mega Project: An Investigation on Stakeholders and Urban Design in Milan and Shanghai’ and ‘The Construction of Urban Heterotopia: A Case Study of Chinatown in Milan’ respectively.

Publications and other work

Zhu, J. (2020) Heterotopia and the Ordering of Contested Urban Public Space: A Case Study of the Sarpi Neighbourhood (Chinatown) in Milan. In J.León Casero and J. Urabayen (eds.) Differences in the City. Postmetrepolitan Heterotopias as Liberal Utopian Dreams. New York: Nova Science Publishers

Zhu, J. (2019) Freedom and Rules in the “Freeland”: An Investigation on Nomocratic Planning Based on the Case of Oosterwold, the Netherlands. Urban Planning International, 34 (6): 115-124 doi: 0.22217/upi.2017.227 (in Chinese)

Zhu, J (2018). "Seven Cities of Bologna": Reflection on "City of Cities". Urban Planning International, 33(3): 73-82 doi:10.22217/upi.2016.107 (in Chinese)

Zhu, J (2015). Interaction Between Residential Differentiation and Social Strati cation: A Case Study of Shanghai. Urban Insight, 5: 98-107 doi:10.3969/j.issn.1674-7178.2015.05.011 (in Chinese)


Conference papers/presentations:

“From designer to place-promoter: An extended idea of place-making and vitalisation,” AESOP Annual Congress, 10-14 July, 2018.

“Heterotopia and equilibrium of contested urban space – an investigation of an accommodation-assimilation mechanism,” 52nd IsoCarp International Planning Conference, 12-16 September, 2016.



BPLN0078 Urban Design: Theory to Practice (undergraduate module)

BPLN0057 Urban Design: Guidance, Incentive and Control (postgraduate module)



September 2019 -   Co-organiser of the Socially Just Planning Doctoral Network

September 2018 – September 2019  Departmental PhD student representative