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Saturday, November 09, 2019
Scholars from RAND and Philly delivered speeches during 2019 POD Forum in Chengdu
ANBOUND

On November 8, ANBOUND successfully hosted 2019 Pedestrian Oriented Development Forum in Chengdu of China. Focusing on POD, people-centered concept and city as its theme, the forum invited representatives from various industries, academia, and research institutes for exchanges and discussions of solutions to urban problems, so as to promote high quality urban development.

Mr. Chan Kung, the Chief Researcher of ANBOUND, has previously pointed out that all problems in China are related to the issue of speed. From 1978 to 2018, China's urbanization rate increased by more than 1 percentage point per year, and now it has reached about 60%. The resident population in cities and towns has increased from 170 million to 810 million, and the number of cities has increased from 193 to 660. It took China a short period of time to achieve what others needed centuries or more to achieve. While development at such high speed has clearly shown results, it has also reduced the space for cities to self-repair and adaptation to problems during the process.

In response to the complex problems in Chinese cities, after decades of research, in 2017, Mr. Chan Kung proposed the concept of pedestrian-oriented development (POD), an innovative, systematic solution to urban problems. This solution emphasizes the equilibrium, moderation, and long-term means to resolve the urban issues. The POD concept is, from historical perspective, an objective and stable option.

As Ms. Feng Yan, Director of ANBOUND Urban Issue Research Center mentioned in the forum, Chinese cities are facing various problems. In the face of such system problems, the solution must also be systematic as well, and the POD concept is such a solution. The concept of POD prioritizes people in urban development. As a systematic urban solution, it encompasses urban planning, streets, industries. buildings, environment, culture and consumption to integrate the existing professional branches in order to serve urban construction. In his visit to Lanzhou August this year, President Xi Jinping especially emphasized that cities belong to the people, and urban construction should adhere to the people-centered development concept to provide happier living for the people. In November, he visited Shanghai and again proposed that cities should be built by the people, for the people. In urban construction, it is necessary to implement the people-centered development thoughts, rationally arrange production, living, and ecological space, as well as strive to expand not only public space, but also leisure space for people to enjoy fitness and entertainment activities, thereby making the cities ideal places for the people to live and work. Looking at the 14 core principles of POD, it is not difficult to see that the requirements put forward by President Xi are all included in the POD concept. This is a systematic integration of urban policies and design principles from planning to design, from production to living, from street to consumption.

In the forum, Dr. Anita Chandra, Vice President and Director of RAND Social and Economic Well-Being from the United States, pointed out that cities are built for people, and the people are the core of urban construction. However, the overwhelming urbanization process has caused Chinese cities moving further and further away from their original intentions. Urban construction and the interests of residents seem to be more and more distance from each other. In order to help Chinese cities to remedy its issues in the development of social and economic well-being, Dr. Chandra selected the most typical scheme contents from domestic and international urban design and planning, and provided various new possibilities.

Mr. Richard P. Voith, President and Principal of Econsult Solutions, a Philadelphia-based research firm on urban issues in the United States, said at the forum that China has gone through the largest and fastest urbanization process in the world history. In order to keep up with the pace of urbanization, more focuses were given to the physical construction of infrastructure and less on the people. Under this model, Chinese cities that are rapidly developed will inevitably suffer. The most prominent problem is that the commute time has become longer, the production interaction reduced, and the quality of life becomes lower. He believes that with the continuous emergence of innovative technologies in construction and other fields, China will have an excellent opportunity to reshape more efficient, more productive, and more attractive cities in the next 30 years. In this process, there are huge potentials in walkability, population size, mixed-use development, compact development, agglomeration economy, and efficient digital travel, which would bring benefits to the Chinese populace and enterprises.

Associate professor Zhou Rong from the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University stated that from his perspective, the sense of culture of a city mainly comes from the substance and quality of non-utilitarian activities of the city, while modern cities with functionalism as the main feature often least prioritize the space for such activities. For example, urban pedestrians are defined and limited by the narrow sense of "urban traffic", which results in the city's hidden deprivation of the residents' right in engaging in culture. Good urban design, on the other hand, can make the various non-utilitarian public spaces in the city become an energy network that increases the sense of culture in the city.

As a member of the Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission and a key figure in the Philadelphia Urban Renewal Project in the United States, Ms. Daniela Holt Voith, co-founder of Voith & Mactavish Architects, believes that in the past decades, the rapid growth of China's building environment is astonishing; however the excessively rapid urban construction speed not only helps China's development, but also produces hidden risks for the future of its cities. Is it possible to ensure urban construction to have both quantity and quality? Would it not be better to start with prioritizing lifestyles and residents' health, shortening commute time, building a walkable environment, and advocating comprehensive, diversified and integrated development? Here, Ms. Daniela Voith introduced her previous experience in the Philadelphia Urban Renewal Project. After more than a decade, thanks to the people-oriented urban renewal work conducted years before, Philadelphia's urban residents can enjoy the city's charm. The diversified, integrated development model continues to create new surprises for the city.

Mr. Yao Zhan, the Chief Consultant of MTR Corporation Limited, also expressed his views at the forum. He believes that in the 1960s, through public-private partnerships, additional walkways were built in the core commercial area of Hong Kong's Central District during the reconstruction of commercial buildings, and a multi-level walkway system was gradually formed, which facilitated the movement of people and enlivened the malls in the building. This has also reduced the problem of people and vehicles competing for the road. It also accumulated valuable experience for Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's POD track transformation has started since then.

There were lively exchanges of ideas about POD-concept urban construction and development. ANBOUND strongly believes that only through wisdom can we promote social progress and contribute to building a better China. We sincerely hope that this forum not only provided an opportunity for exchanges of expertise on urban planning in China, but also sparks the beginning of people-oriented urban development philosophy around the world.

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