1st Edition

Supergrid and Superblock Lessons in Urban Structure from China and Japan

By Xiaofei Chen Copyright 2023
    256 Pages 142 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 142 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 142 Color & 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this superbly illustrated book Xiaofei Chen presents the first analysis in English of a ubiquitous East Asian urban phenomenon: the supergrid and superblock urban structure. The book opens with an introductory essay by Barrie Shelton in which he sets the scene for what is to follow, emphasizing how alien this structure was to Western urban design culture where radial patterns of development were the norm. Then, in her first chapter, Chen explains the make-up of the supergrid and superblock urban structure and its contrasting Chinese and Japanese forms. In the following three chapters she digs deep into the history, cultural origins, and underlying design philosophy of the supergrid and superblock to show how, under different cultural influences, the model has developed into two distinct forms. Two further chapters (5 and 6) provide detailed analysis of two sample superblocks in China (in Xi’an and Nanjing) and two in Japan (in Kyoto and Osaka) to reveal the relative advantages and disadvantages of how the structure is manifest in the two countries. In her conclusion she discusses her findings to show how and why the supergrid and superblock structure is a valuable urban design model which, with regional adjustments, can be used effectively in cities other than those of East Asia.

    An Introductory Essay by Barrie Shelton: From Radials and Grids to Supergrids and Superblocks

    Chapter 1 An Eastern Supergrid and Superblock Urban Model

    Supergrid and Superblocks

    A Note on Theory and Approach

    Chapter 2 Supergrid and Superblock History

    Origins in the East

    Transformation in China

    Contemporary China: Fragmentation, Disconnection, and Isolation

    Developments in Japan

    Contemporary Japan: Diversity, Vitality, and Convenience


    Chapter 3 Culture

    Tendencies: Eastern ‘Areal’ and Western ‘Linear’

    Similarities: ‘Areal’, Multi-Dimensional, Multi-Directional

    Difference: Wall- and Floor-oriented Areal Conception

    Solid and Void

    Brightness and Darkness

    Static and Dynamic: ‘2D + 3D’ and ‘2D’ Areal Conception

    Part and Whole

    Centrality and Asymmetry

    Multi-Petal and Multi-Fugal Structure


    Chapter 4 Theory

    Interconnection: The Interplay between Structure, Movement and Activity

    Organized Complexity: Interrelationship between Form and Function

    Interrelationships between Street Network and Activities

    Integration, Connection, and Interaction

    Key Measures of Form and Function


    Chapter 5 Practice in China: The Kingdom of Walls and Gates

    Supergrids of Xi’an and Nanjing

    Superblocks: Jinyuan, Xi’an, and Daguangli, Nanjing

    Movement, Activity, and Interconnection





    Chapter 6 Practice in Japan: The Hidden Floor

    The Supergrids of Kyoto and Osaka

    Superblocks: Shijo-Karasuma and Imazato

    Movement, Activity and Interconnection





    Chapter 7 Supergrid and Superblock: A System for Global Consideration

    Chinese and Japanese Superblocks Compared

    Chinese Version: A Missing Link in the Structure

    Japanese Version: A Lesson on the Importance of Glocal Streets

    Design Principles of the Two Versions

    Advantages and Disadvantages

    Chinese Superblock: Towards a Solution

    Inset: Directions for the Supergrid and Superblock System in China

    Appendix I Chronological Outline of Chinese and Japanese History

    Appendix II Notes on Data and Method




    Xiaofei Chen is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of Qingdao University of Technology. After completing Bachelors (Built Environments) and Masters (Urban Design) degrees at the University of Melbourne, and her PhD from the University of Sydney, she returned to China and to her home city of Qingdao.

    Barrie Shelton, author of Learning from the Japanese City and co-author of The Making of Hong Kong (both published in the Planning, History, and Environment series), held senior positions at the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney, and Melbourne. He now lives with his wife Emiko in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.

    ‘The classic urban morphological studies tell us not only about the particular places they scrutinize but tend to say something enduring about urban form and society more generally. Supergrid and Superblock is a welcome addition to join the classics and should give both scholars and practitioners food for thought for years to come.’

    Stephen Marshall, University College London