Lessons from the Shikumen of Shanghai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

This paper looks at the Shikumen housing in Shanghai, and explores the aspects of its unique character that can inform design to form, support and retain communities in today’s expanding urban landscape.
Unique to Shanghai, the Shikumen, built in the mid 19th Century, were speculative developments housing workers. Their layout, of a main alley with branch alleys off, formed city blocks and communities. Their typology, signified by the stone gate entrance, inner courtyards and hierarchy of internal spaces, created communities within communities. With the development boom in Shanghai, the Shikumen are being demolished. Some have been retained, but mostly in a pastiche form that supports non housing uses such as shops and restaurants. Only recently has the importance of their original function within families, communities and the wider city been realised. This is not being supported by any programme of retention or preservation. This paper will analyse the Shikumen to extract those important elements that are relevant to the development of Shanghai, and housing on an international scale. It will make a comparison with the Colonies housing in Edinburgh, housing of similar form and age, that has not only been retained, but is being reproduced in a modern form.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign to Thrive: PLEA 2017 Conference Proceedings
EditorsLuisa Brotas, Susan Roaf, Fergus Nicol
PublisherPLEA (Passive and Low Energy Architecture)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780992895754
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2017
EventPLEA 2017: Passive Low Energy Architecture - Edinburgh
Duration: 3 Jul 20175 Jul 2017


ConferencePLEA 2017
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Shikumen
  • Colonies
  • Housing
  • Communities


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  • PLEA 2017

    Rachel Simmonds (Speaker)


    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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