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Thanks, Sutong for such a descriptive post on the designing of neighbourhoods. As we all know, the traditional elements that compose a neighbourhood vary from one culture to another or even in the same city we can find different types of neighbourhoods, whether it is formed by terraced houses or high-density buildings, with social facilities and stores within it, or with separate areas for every use, etc. But there are always some elements that are common across cultures, cities and neighbourhoods, that makes us identify them. As you mention, the primary element we look in an area to categorize it as a neighbourhood is the concentration of residences in it, and also the sense of belonging among their residents.

A particular type of neighbourhood (from our Urban Design Seminars with professor Ali Madanipour), that comes to my mind is the gated neighbourhoods and work unit compounds in China, which, in terms of morphology, I relate them to a combined version of the cells and pods neighbourhood form Hugh Barton mentions, because as Xu & Yang (2009) describe, they share some characteristics with both of them, such as:

  • Mixed-use communities.
  • Some residential areas were organized into a cluster, accessed to by a main alley in cul-de-sac style.
  • Introverted kind of living.
  • “Miniature city within its own walls”, which means each of them function independently because they have a self-contained and high level of social facilities like clinics, nurseries, schools, parks, libraries, sport fields, social halls, etc.

These Chinese gated neighbourhoods resemble to pods in terms that although they presented mixed land-use, they were walled compounds, which increases fragmentation and segregation. Neighbourhoods are not connected to other neighbourhoods, which makes it in some way, pedestrian unfriendly, making people to exit one in order to enter the other, instead of just using the closest route to visit a friend from another neighbourhood.

For example, the Dragon Lake Garden, an urban development located in New North District to the north of the old city centre of Chongqing, China, is composed of four gated communities: South Garden, West Garden, Fragrant Camphor Wood and Crystal Town. Although next to each other, we see how these walled neighbourhoods are separate. (Image 1)

Image 1. Source: Xu (2009)


The Crystal Town is located in five different urban plots divided by the municipal roads. It is a mixed-use urban project with residential, commercial, recreational functions arranged along the street and shared with the local public (Xu, 2009). Nevertheless, Image 2 shows how you have to exit through one of the gateways to get to the other Crystal Town neighbourhoods.

Image 2. Source: Xu (2009)


Regardless of that mentioned before, China recognizes the major problems these gated communities bring to the urban public road system. For this reason, in 2016, China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched a controversial policy of gradually open gated communities, in order to join these “new open residential areas” to the public roads (Kai, 2016).


-Xu, M., Yang, Z. (2009). ‘Design history of China’s gated cities and neighbourhoods: Prototype and evolution’, Urban Design International, 14 (2), pp. 99-117.

-Xu, M. (2009). Gated communities in China: Urban Design concerns. PHD. Thesis. Cardiff University. Available at: (Accessed: 18 January 2019).

-Lu, T., Zhang, F., Wu, F. (2018). Place attachement in gated neighbourhoods in China: Evidence from Wenzhou, Geoforum, 92, pp. 114-151.

-Kai, G. (2016). ‘Gated communities will open gradually’, China Daily, 24 February. Available at: (Accessed: 18 January 2019).


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