Programme: Architecture - PhD/MPhil/MSc by Research

Start date: September 2013

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Terminology of Urban Ideals and Their Conceptualisations and Practice in Urban Development

Chuan Wang is a fourth-year PhD Candidate in Architecture at ESALA, sponsored by China Scholarship Council / University of Edinburgh joint scholarship. In Edinburgh, he also teaches as a tutor in Architectural Design: Explorations (ARCH10001) and Architectural Theory (ARCH10002)  as a tutor and assisted ECA's PGT-PhD Mentoring Scheme as a mentor since 2015. He graduated from Tsinghua University with a Bachelor of Architecture (2011) and a Master of Engineering in City and Rural Planning (2013), both granted with National Scholarships which are the highest merit awards in Chinese Higher Education. In 2009 autumn, he studied at Aalto University (then Helsinki University of Technology, TKK) in Finland, as an exchange student, funded by Aalto University. During his years in China, he practiced and researched in URBANUS, THUDPI and Beijing R&D, Électricité de France, in the fields of architecture design, urban planning and sustainable urban development. In the summer of 2012, he served as a specialist of urban development in Minhou County, Fujian Province. Chuan also volunteered in many events, including National Aquatics Center service in 2008 Beijing Olympics.



Discourse is an extensive topic in urban studies as a way to propagate and spread ideas. Numerous new terms are invented to encapsulate new complex visions of the built environment. Architects, urbanists, and geographers are fond of using new terms to convey visionary urban design or to encapsulate the new findings of urban research. Some of these new ideas spread as widely discussed topics in urban theory, while some terms evolve with common sense, but more of them struggle or fade in lack of wide acceptance. Nevertheless, new terms stimulate the development of urban theory because the contemporary society use an increasing number of new terms to describe the multifarious nature of the urban world, or to attempt to assemble the fragmental urban theory systematically. The process through which the new terms are coined, discussed, utilised, diverged and evolved is significant topic to better understand our contemporary discussion in urban studies and practice.

This research uses linguistic research methods and Lacan’s Four Discourse social theory to examine the concepts of new terms through the analysis of academic writing, industrial discussion and project practice. It tries to depict extensive images to understand the metaphor between language and creation of space. The case studies focus on Ecocity and Urban Village in order to comprehensively probe the use of terminology and the concepts behind the terms. Poundbury and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City (SSTEC) are the two concrete urban projects to examine Ecocity and Urban Village.

The research provides an innovative synthesised method to rethink the influence of terms on urban development. After reading, architects, urban designer or urban planner can have a deeper understanding of term use in urban planning/design. They can also discern the essence of academic and social discourse which are always masked with magnificent but ambiguous new terms.


Conceptualisations of Contested New Terms in Discourse and Practice of Urban Studies


Research Question

How does terminology of urban ideals influence urban development?