Architecture, Building and Planning - Theses
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Learning environment affordances: Bridging the gap between potential, perception and practice
Over the past decade, there has been significant investment into new school buildings in Australia. This period of educational facility growth has given rise to the emergence of innovative learning environments (ILEs), spaces which exhibit a wider range of affordances for learning than traditional classrooms. Whilst ILEs are intended to offer more pedagogical opportunities for teachers and students, little is known about how the affordances of ILEs are being used. This study clarifies the concept of affordances within the context of physical learning environments, identifies how affordances are perceived by architects and teachers, and synthesises a range of strategies to support teachers to take advantage of ILE affordances to enhance deeper learning. The research is embedded within an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project called Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change (ILETC), which investigates how teachers across Australia and New Zealand can be supported to use ILEs to achieve deep learning goals for their students. This qualitative research project was conducted as two distinct studies. The first study involved investigating teachers’ and architects’ perceptions of affordances for learning across traditional and ILE spaces in five educational facilities. The second study investigated teachers’ understandings and use of affordances in support of pedagogies for deep learning. An innovative methodological pairing of participatory action research (PAR) and co-design was employed to work with teachers from two secondary schools to develop understandings of the processes by which new learning spaces can be actioned for deep learning. Data were collected through workshops, semi-structured interviews and teacher reflections. Findings show differences in the perceptions of teachers and architects with respect to learning environment affordances, with teachers found to perceive more affordances for learning than architects. A taxonomy of affordances for varied teaching and learning approaches was also identified. Furthermore, strategies were developed to support teachers to take advantage of the affordances of ILEs. These strategies related to connections between infrastructure, school organisation and teacher practice.
The Architecture of China's Christian Universities: A Semiotic Study
Architecture carries meanings, especially in the case of cultural and religious buildings when architecture is often intended to overtly demonstrate symbolic meanings. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, thirteen Christian universities were built in China by British and American missionaries to facilitate religious propoganda. In the quasi-colonial context of China, the university buildings, designed by Western architects, imitated local Chinese architecture in order to pacify local resistance. Chinese architectural elements were carefully adopted and combined with Western ones to express abundant meanings: the universities’ respectful attitude towards Chinese culture and Chinese people, the educational ideal of the universities to synthesise Western and Chinese education systems, and so on. But were the architectural meanings interpreted in the same way as envisioned by the designers? How efficacious was this architectural communication? The cross-cultural context made the situation even more complicated. The meanings embedded in the university buildings were interpreted by various groups of people from different cultural backgrounds: the Western missionaries and architects, Western media, staff from both China and the West, the Chinese students, the local government, and ordinary Chinese people. Each of them derived different meanings from the buildings with their own encyclopaedic knowledge. This leads to another question: How should the meaning of architecture be studied in cross-cultural contexts? This thesis explores the architectural history of China’s Christian universities constructed by Western missionaries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the interaction between architecture, politics, and culture, the thesis analyses how the Christian campuses were constructed against the complex socio-cultural context of modern China. Informed by semiotic theories, cross-cultural architectural “communication” between various groups at the campuses is examined, with a model describing architectural communication in cross-cultural contexts constructed and tested through analysis of case studies.
Public Rental Housing Provision for Migrant Workers in Chongqing, China: A Case Study from an Urban Justice Perspective
This thesis examines the experience of Chongqing’s public rental housing (PRH) provision and the expanding access to public housing by migrant workers from an urban justice perspective. Over the past several decades, China’s urban housing provision has experienced significant changes, transforming from a socialist welfare- to a more market-oriented housing system and more recently, a return to the public housing resurgence. The city of Chongqing, the largest southwestern Chinese city, has launched China’s largest PRH programme which is accessible to migrant workers following the removal of the hukou residence restriction against them. The new model of Chongqing’s PRH provision demonstrates the potential of making transformative urban changes to reduce inequality and improve social welfare of urban disadvantaged groups such as migrant workers. This thesis investigates the seeking of urban justice in China’s transitional context through a large-scale public housing programme in Chongqing. Building upon Fainstein’s (2010) Just City theory, this thesis develops a conceptual framework to evaluate the role of public housing provision using equity, diversity, and democracy as core criteria. To operationalise the evaluation, the proposed conceptual framework brings different analytical approaches at interfaces between Jessop, Brenner and Jones’ (2008) multi-dimensional socio-spatiality and the capabilities approach to explore the impact of state policy on citizens’ well-being. The framework is applied to Chongqing’s case to analyse the multiple forms of socio-spatial intervention into public housing and the capabilities enhancement of migrant workers in Chongqing. The findings show that Chongqing’s large-scale and progressive PRH programme has been implemented within an exceptionally short period of time under a powerful state intervention and control through mobilising different socio-spatial strategies. The provision of PRH has transformed urban living conditions that the migrant workers have experienced substantial capabilities enhancement after moving to PRH. Chongqing’s PRH policy has contributed to greater urban justice through redistributive public endeavours and recognition of migrant workers’ housing right. However, this thesis reveals the lack of democratic norms in urban policy-making that progressive urban change is likely to hang on state initiatives and benevolent leadership in China’s Party-state context. Chongqing’s transforming housing justice is derived from the Chinese contextual specificity. The findings shed lights on the theoretical concern of urban justice in China’s transitional context. This thesis also provides a more nuanced understanding of China’s public housing provision and its influences on welfare distribution and citizens’ well-being at the current stage of the housing reform.
Spatial planning to promote settlements’ resilience to bushfires
Bushfire hazards can pose significant risks at bushfire-prone urban-rural interfaces and peri-urban areas, highlighting the need to manage bushfire risk in relation to settlements’ planning and governance. Settlements’ resilience to bushfires can be purposively facilitated by the development and application of bushfire risk management knowledge. Spatial planning has the potential to support learning about and acting upon changing conditions and new bushfire information to promote settlements’ resilience to bushfires. However, the translation of new bushfire knowledge into meaningful spatial planning practices has been limited and spatial planning systems often struggle to integrate bushfire risk management. Thus, this research aims to contribute to understandings of spatial planning ability to improve its practices by identifying, reframing, and putting into action new considerations about bushfire risk management to promote settlements’ resilience to bushfires. This research used an inductive qualitative research approach employing two case studies: the spatial planning systems of Chile and Victoria (Australia). Qualitative data was collected from documentation, archival records, and semi-structured interviews. The data was analysed using time-series analysis, qualitative content analysis, and cross-case synthesis techniques. The research was divided into four stages, two stages correspond to the individual case study analysis and the remaining two to cross-case synthesis and discussion. The research concludes that the Chilean and Victorian spatial planning systems are still constrained in their promotion of settlements’ resilience to bushfires due to internal and external complexities that frame and limit their ability for bushfire risk management. In Chile, there have been several mostly unsuccessful attempts to integrate bushfire considerations into the spatial planning system, thus the current system only outlines spatial planning mechanisms for bushfire risk management generically and inapplicably. In Victoria, the spatial planning system has partially and progressively improved its ways for dealing with bushfires, however, the current system still considers bushfire risk management partially and sometimes ambiguously. In practice, this implies that both spatial planning systems are sometimes allowing and even promoting settlements patterns that perpetuate bushfire risks. Based on a cross-case synthesis, the research concludes that spatial planning instruments that comprehensively address bushfires are necessary, suggesting an integrated approach that undertakes bushfire risk management at the strategic, tactical, and operational levels of planning mechanisms and processes. This approach establishes the instruments’ role in bushfire risk management and other factors that provide directions for improving their ability to promote settlements’ resilience to bushfire. Furthermore, the research also concludes that reflexive processes are not always conducive to the development and improvement of spatial planning systems for bushfire risk management, due to the variance of willingness, understanding, and capacity issues within the system and in the wider context. Accordingly, thesis propositions about the barriers and facilitators that influence spatial planning progressing from the identification, to the reframing and implementation of change about bushfire risk management were suggested.
Scalar politics and the planning of high-speed rail stations in Wuhan, China
High-speed rail (HSR) stations are nodes and places that involve multi-sector and multi-scalar decision-making in their planning and development. Nevertheless, the current literature has focused much on the inter-sector interplays but is lopsided by a lack of understanding of the multi-scalar interactions. It leaves several theoretical gaps in the study of scalar politics and empirical gaps in interrogating how scalar politics have unfolded around HSR station planning and development. A scale-sensitive analytical framework and empirical evidence are needed to develop a ‘balanced theorisation’ of the interlocking relationships between HSR station area planning, development and the scalar structure as well as the inter-scalar interactions. This research seeks to address the theoretical and empirical research gaps by exploring the multi-scalar decision-making in the planning and development of HSR stations in China, where the relationships between multilevel governments have been transformed profoundly and the HSR network has been built rapidly. The thesis uses a scale-sensitive framework to investigate inter-scalar interactions among multilevel governments and authorities, especially concerning the strategies and policies crossing the rigid and inherited territorial scale of governments. Three inter-related questions are in focus: (a) what kinds of institutional/policy settings are responsible for the complicated relationships alternating between confliction and cooperation among the various stakeholders in decision-making associated with HSR station planning and development? (b) how do stakeholders manage their resources, opportunities, and interests for cooperation with and competition against each other in the multi-scalar setting? (c) what planning outcomes are observed, and to what extent have the inter-scalar interactions impacted the existing scalar structure? The research is conducted in the context of metropolitan Wuhan, where rapid changes in the urban built-up area, metropolitan boundary, government jurisdictions and responsibilities are prominent. Three HSR stations in Wuhan are used as case studies to probe into the decision-making processes. Conceptually, the research draws on insights from the existing literature about HSR planning, multi-level governance and scalar theories in planning, including indigenous Chinese governance concepts to which many Western ideas about scale are applied. The analyses focused on both primary and secondary information, including face-to-face interview data gathered from key informants selected from multilevel governments, planning institutions, universities, and the private sector, field reconnaissance data (observation notes and field photographs), planning and policy documents, minutes of meetings, maps, published works, and press articles. The research findings reveal that the planning and development of the three case study HSR stations are products of scalar politics centred on Wuhan. The scalar structure does not only define the scalar division of resources, responsibilities and power among multi-scalar actors but also raises different expectations towards the station projects. Multi-scalar actors deploy different strategies (competition, cooperation, or inactions) to effectively manipulate the discursive and material dimensions of scale in pursuit of their place-dependent interests. The interactions and inactions between them finally lead to the planning and development outcomes (i.e., site selection, land use planning and transport connections). The fast-evolving nature of the scalar structure in the HSR planning regime results in both inter-scalar tensions and cooperation opportunities between stakeholders in the multi-scalar context. Not only the tensions but also the shared interests between them can lead to inter-scalar interactions, which shape the planning and development outcome and further trigger scalar restructuring. Unlike the intensive interplay that unfolded between multi-scalar governments in site selection where overlaps of institutional responsibilities exist, the governments chose not to engage with each other in the integrated development proposal but cooperated in intraurban transport connections. The out-of-date institutions, or the lack thereof, combined with the lack of appropriate incentives, hampered the implementation of integrated station area planning and development. Strong government hands at multiple scales have shaped HSR station area planning and development in China. In contrast, the absence of non-state sector participation, including that from the civil society, in station site selection and station area development, is remarkable. The de facto roles of government agencies played out, in reality, may not accord with the de jure roles defined by their institutional mandate. It is not only because of the outdated institutions (or the lack thereof) but also the institutional overlaps between multi-scalar actors. Within the state sector, the reshuffle of responsibilities, power and resources among institutions at different scales of government over the past couple of decades has provided opportunities for negotiated arrangements either to complement or to replace legalistic, hierarchical institutional relationships. However, the inertia of sectoral behaviour to protect their own interests undermines those integration opportunities.