Work Unit City: A Study of the Transport Design for Chinese Small City Urban Form
Facing environmental degradation and peak oil, western countries have begun to deliberate over the compact city form to decrease energy consumption and air pollution. In the rapid process of urbanization, China however is adopting western sprawling development pattern. In fact, there is a strong organizational basis for Chinese energy-saving development, namely work unit, that is now losing its dominant role. In Chinese cities, the work unit (Danwei), a typical example of centrally planned economy and communism, is not only the critical place for employment, but also the minimal social organization and basic cell for urban form and transport network. During the long period after 1949, the pattern of factory-based community had been pervasive in nearly every Chinese city, which was exclusively prominent in resource-oriented cities such as Daqing and Dongying (oil city), Datong (coal city) and Anshan (steel city) etc. A case study explores basic structure and transportation networks of work unit that is represented by ‘small and all-inclusive’ manifestation comprising all kinds of facilities and social services within walkable distance. Based on the qualitative analysis relating to adaptive potentials of work unit in the context of energy constraints, a number of future transition plans are proposed to favour urban sustainable development. The risk to the work unit is its high dependence on the presence of factory, in fact, with the massive collapse of state-owned enterprises in the 1990s, the function of work unit started to diminish in the course of economic reform. Yet its efficient spatial form and stable social structure still provide references for designing organic urban form with high resilience to energy constraints.