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Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4103;

Urban River Transformation and the Landscape Garden City Movement in China

College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
College of Architecture and Landscape, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
Collegium—Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Lyon, 69007 Lyon, France
College of Environmental Design, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 September 2018 / Revised: 29 October 2018 / Accepted: 2 November 2018 / Published: 8 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human–River Interactions in Cities)
PDF [18655 KB, uploaded 8 November 2018]


The practice of enhancing existing rivers and creating entirely new waterscapes has exploded in China over the past two decades. In our study of 104 randomly selected cities across China, we identified 14 types of river projects based on grey literature reports and their appearance on sequential aerial imagery, falling into three categories: ‘engineering’, ‘waterfront spaces’ and ‘ecological’ projects. ‘Waterfront spaces’ is the most common (60.5%), followed by ‘engineering’ (28.7%) and ‘ecological’ (10.8%). Using multiple stepwise regression, we found that the types of projects undertaken were strongly influenced by factors such as climate, social-economic setting, and ‘Landscape Garden City’ designation. Designation as a ‘Landscape Garden City’ was correlated with ‘waterfront spaces’, but not ‘engineering’ and ‘ecological’ projects. We found that cities in drier climates (as measured by ‘precipitation minus evaporation’) constructed more projects and they included many projects that impounded seasonal rivers to create year-round water bodies. Based on our results, we conclude that Chinese cities are still in the process of ‘decorating’ rivers, and that the ‘Landscape Garden City’ designation promoted such ‘decorating’ projects, especially ‘linear greening’ projects and ‘public spaces along rivers’. The results also demonstrate that the new river projects in China are often at odds with the local climate. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban river; Landscape Garden City; engineering; waterfront spaces; new waterscape urban river; Landscape Garden City; engineering; waterfront spaces; new waterscape

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Shi, S.; Kondolf, G.M.; Li, D. Urban River Transformation and the Landscape Garden City Movement in China. Sustainability 2018, 10, 4103.

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