Research in Chinese urban planning policy receives Future Fellowship

1 December 2011

University of Sydney lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, Dr Duanfang Lu, has received an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.

The fellowship, worth over $680,000 over four years, will assist Lu to continue her world-leading research in Chinese urban planning policy.

Her project, titled 'Mapping China's urban crisis: the politics of land and resettlement', will unravel the complexities involved in China's recent rural resettlement program, during which peasants are moved to modern apartment buildings and many villages are redeveloped into cultivable land. "Grand reversals are taking place in this process: culture is being turned into nature, and places are being transformed into spaces."

Lu says that the transition will radically change peasants' traditional ways of life and has important environmental implications.

"On the one hand, there is deep worry about the loss of arable land to urban development, which is considered to affect national food security. On the other hand, while most local governments depend on land revenue to balance their finance, they have exhausted their existing land stock. The resettlement program represents one of the efforts to tackle this crisis," Lu says.

Lu says that the Future Fellowship will enable her to collaborate with both Australian and Chinese researchers. The project will involve fieldwork in China and consultation with other disciplines.

"It's an interdisciplinary subject, linking empirical research with larger theoretical debates on sustainable development in contemporary social, ecological and urban theory," Lu says.

Lu plans to organize two workshops. The first, "The Margins of Urban China", is expected to be held in 2013. She says that the topic has global relevance because of similar problems faced by cities across the world.

"The most dynamic areas of development today are at the urban fringe, where agricultural land has rapidly been turned into industrial or residential properties. It is an urgent issue to resolve the tensions between urbanisation, food security and sustainable development. Research on the urban fringe of Chinese cities will provide insights for a radical rethinking of knowledge, capital and nature in our time."

"This fellowship is timely - it is exactly what I need at this stage of my career."

Lu is a world-leading scholar on urban China and modern architectural history. Her first book Remaking Chinese Urban Form (2006) is a set text for urban planning courses around the world, and her second book Third World Modernism (2010) opens up whole new perspectives on modern architecture in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

Lu attained her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Beijing's Tsinghua University.