4 September 2013

Inter-University Seminar on Asian Megacities: Asian Urbanism and Beyond Held at CUHK



Organized by the Urban Studies Programme, the Department of Geography and Resource Management (GRMD) and the Faculty of Social Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), an international conference titled 'Inter-University Seminar on Asian Megacities: Asian Urbanism and Beyond' was held recently on campus. The Conference was one of the celebratory events of the 50th anniversary of CUHK. It also marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Urban Studies Programme (URSP), jointly organized by GRMD and the School of Architecture. 

Prof. Cheung Mui Ching Fanny, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, and Mr. Ling Kar Kan, Director of Planning of the HKSAR Government officiated at the opening ceremony. Mr. Ling delivered an opening remarks entitled ‘DNA of Hong Kong urbanism' to analyze the key factors which contribute to the success in urban planning and development of Hong Kong. 

The three-day conference featured five keynote presentations, some twenty thematic breakout sessions and three post-conference technical tours and attracted more than 150 scholars from 15 countries, including mainland China, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, India, Russia, UK, Germany, Finland, Italy, Nigeria and USA. 

The keynote speakers took the challenge of understanding Asian urbanism seriously and they all argued for the need to generate theories that spoke to the realities and unique contexts in Asia. Among them, Prof. Anne Haila, Professor of University of Helsinki, discussed the irrelevancy of Western theories that were often developed to explain 'the private city' whereas her experience of Asian urbanism tended to look at 'cities as commons'. Prof. Wu Fulong, Bartlett Chair of Planning at University College London, shared the case of urban redevelopment in an inconspicuous urban village in Shanghai, highlighting the need for a more nuanced understanding of Western concepts such as development control and 'neoliberal urbanism' in China. Prof. Gu Chaolin, Professor of Tsinghua University, discussed about the spatial restructuring processes of the megacity of Beijing and the challenges of Beijing as an emerging world-class city. Prof. Ananya Roy, Professor and Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice at UC Berkeley, argued that it is necessary to go beyond neoliberalism to explain the development of today's Asian megacities and their brand of urbanism. She advised academics to reflect the impacts their scholarship on the politics of Asian urban development where 'poverty capitalism' often existed side by side with 'elite informality'. Using the recent findings of the OMEGA Centre's international research on mega-urban transport projects, Prof. Harry Dimitriou, Professor and Director of OMEGA Centre, University of College London, synthesized nine criteria to answer the question: 'What constitutes successful urban transport projects?' and again he emphasized the importance of the context in evaluating mega projects. 

Apart from the keynote presentations, participants engaged in a wide range of urban-related themes during the breakout sessions, including urban development, urban planning history, housing matters, architecture, conservation and urban design, etc. Fruitful discussions were made, aiming to explore the nature, evolution and uniqueness of urbanization issues and processes in Asian megacities. Moreover, three technical tours to Mai Po, Housing Authority Exhibition Centre and MTR Corporation Limited were arranged to let participants understand more about the environment, housing and transport issues in Hong Kong. 

This 18th Inter-University Seminar on Asian Megacites (IUSAM) was the largest ever organized within the network and it was very well received by all participants. It had successfully carried on the good tradition of IUSAM to nurture young research students from across Asian universities and beyond. By involving the students from the new Urban Studies Programme to act as Masters of Ceremony and technical assistances in the conference, it was hoped that the exposure could help groom the URSP undergraduates to be keen urban observers, critics, theorists and practitioners who are passionate about the sustainability of our urban futures.

(From left) Prof. Chen Yongqin David, Chairman, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK; Prof. Leung Yee, Director, Institute of Future Cities, CUHK; Prof. Lin Hui, Director, Institute of Space and Earth Information Science, CUHK; Prof. Xu Jiang, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK; Prof. Ng Mee Kam, Director, Urban Studies Programme, CUHK; Prof. Cheung Mui Ching Fanny, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, CUHK; Mr. Ling Kar Kan, Director of Planning, the HKSAR Government; Prof. Wu Fulong, Professor, University College London; Prof. Anne Haila, Professor, University of Helsinki; Prof. Harry Dimitriou, Professor and Director of OMEGA Centre, University of College London; Prof. Gu Chaolin, Professor, Tsinghua University; Prof. Hendrik Tieben, Associate Professor, School of Architecture; Prof. Fung Tung, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, CUHK; and Prof. Shen Jianfa, Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK.
(From left) Prof. Chen Yongqin David, Chairman, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK; Prof. Leung Yee, Director, Institute of Future Cities, CUHK; Prof. Lin Hui, Director, Institute of Space and Earth Information Science, CUHK; Prof. Xu Jiang, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK; Prof. Ng Mee Kam, Director, Urban Studies Programme, CUHK; Prof. Cheung Mui Ching Fanny, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, CUHK; Mr. Ling Kar Kan, Director of Planning, the HKSAR Government; Prof. Wu Fulong, Professor, University College London; Prof. Anne Haila, Professor, University of Helsinki; Prof. Harry Dimitriou, Professor and Director of OMEGA Centre, University of College London; Prof. Gu Chaolin, Professor, Tsinghua University; Prof. Hendrik Tieben, Associate Professor, School of Architecture; Prof. Fung Tung, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, CUHK; and Prof. Shen Jianfa, Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, CUHK.

Mr. Ling Kar Kan, Director of Planning, the HKSAR Government delivers an opening speech.
Mr. Ling Kar Kan, Director of Planning, the HKSAR Government delivers an opening speech.

Prof. Lee Siu Nam Paul, Dean of Social Science (4th left), professors of Department of Geography and Resource Management, and members of the Urban Studies Programme Committee, at the cake-cutting ceremony in celebration of the first anniversary of the Urban Studies Programme.
Prof. Lee Siu Nam Paul, Dean of Social Science (4th left), professors of Department of Geography and Resource Management, and members of the Urban Studies Programme Committee, at the cake-cutting ceremony in celebration of the first anniversary of the Urban Studies Programme.