Programme: Architecture - PhD/MPhil/MSc by Research

Start date: September 2015

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Walkability in contemporary Chinese cities

Ziwen is currently undertaking a PhD research project in Architecture regarding Walkability/Walking, Space and the City, that relates to his master's dissertation at the University of Sheffield (awarded with Distinction). He is also teaching architectural design studio and creative practice dissertation at Edinburgh and Newcastle. Before the PhD research, Ziwen was working at China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, and undertook an architectural project of ‘Self-constructed Space Rashmon Gangxia’ at Retumu Urban-Rural Institute. During this period, he has received various prizes in practice such as Best Analysis Award in Designing the Secret of Travel Modes, and Third Prize in Alternatives for Low Carbon City Architecture and Life Competition, 2015


Academic Activity

  • Peer reviewer for Journal Cities & Health, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
  • Initiator for Walking Practice Workshop (Research fieldwork, seminar & pedagogy), cooperated with Harbin Institute of Technology, Yuncheng College, Newcastle University, HeilongJiang Institute of Urban Planning, Suihua Planning Department, and Yuncheng Government, 2017
  • Consultant for professional services with the China Transport Program LEZ/CC, World Resources Institute, 2016
  • Co-organiser for Mobility Mood and Place Co-Design Workshop, British Society of Gerontology Annual Conference, Stirling, UK, 2016
  • Researcher for ‘Rashomon Gangxia’ project, Retumu Urban Rural Institute, Shenzhen, 2015-16


Academic Award

  • Tweedie Exploration Fellowship, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, 2018. 
  • Paper Supervisor for Second Prize (Master Student: Junchao Qian and Songzi Zhou). China Architectural Education TSINGRUN Award Students’ Paper Competition, 2017.
  • Best Paper Award: Special Mention, The 7th Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies, 2016.
  • Full scholarship for PhD research, China Scholarship Council (CSC), Ministry of Education, 2016-19.
  • Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, University of Edinburgh, 2016.

Teaching Experience

  • Design tutor (2016-18) for ARCH07001, University of Edinburgh.
  • Guest reviewer (2015-18) for MArch MMP studio, University of Edinburgh.
  • Module co-organiser (2017-18) for Mappable traces studio, Newcastle University.
  • Course tutor(2017-18) for Creative practice research skills, Newcastle University.
  • Dissertation tutor (2016-18) for APL3003, Newcastle University.
  • Design tutor (2016-18) for Architecture Summer School, Harbin Institute of Technology.

Research abstract

In light of the multiple benefits of walking (e.g. public health, social indifference, air pollution, and misdirected investment), improving walkability is becoming increasingly significant among architects, urban designers and public health researchers. In contemporary Chinese cities, street vendors are a common feature of many neighbourhoods, frequently occupying specific space where many people regularly walk. As such, the pervasive phenomenon of street vending appears to have a close association with the walkability of public spaces. However, street vendors, as undesirable populations sometimes, have always been part of informal business practices and are generally self-organised, which directly confronts the power of the Chinese government in many ways. Due to street vending being produced by multiple forces (e.g. bottom-up spatio-tactics) of various ordinary lives (e.g. livelihoods of weak populations and demands of nearby residents), a desire for social harmony at a state level impels local governments to seek alternatives that mitigate collective resistance. This research seeks to grasp additional knowledge to why walkability and how specific walkable spaces are produced/traced by street vendors in the Chinese context.


Research Interest

  • Walking urbanism and public space
  • Everyday performance and affordance 
  • Socio-spatial practice and co-/re-appropriating space


Publication and Presentation

  • Understanding a specific walkable space via the phenomenon of Chinese street vending: An actor-network theory analysis. Asian Journal of Behavioural Studies (peer-reviewed), Ziwen Sun, Simon Bell, Iain Scott, 2018.
  • How Does Street Vending Contribute to Walkability? A Report on a Study in Yuncheng, China. Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal (peer-reviewed), vol.1, no.4, 2016, p.203-213, Ziwen Sun, Simon Bell, Iain Scott.
  • The Study of Walk Score and its Enlightenment in China: Based on the International Research Development. Conference Proceedings. Chinese Annual National Planning Conference, 2015, Ziwen Sun, Can Liu, Weijing Kong.
  • Learning public life and public space from Gangxia, Shenzhen. Book Chapter. Retumu Urban Rural Institute, p.40-73, 2015, Ziwen Sun, Weijing Kong.


  • Choices and Motivation (Invited Speaker), Alumni Talks, University of Sheffield, May 2017.
  • A comprehensive reflection on ‘our’ cities via the practice of everyday life (Invited Speaker). Walking Practice Workshop, Harbin Institute of Technology, March 2017.
  • The Future of Yuncheng, Strategies for a walkable city (Invited Speaker), Fruitalk and Sustainable city & transpiration seminar, Tsinghua University, Jun 2015.


  • Placemaking as a Potential Approach to Stimulate Outdoor Exercises (oral presentation), The 13th European Association for Sociology of Sport Conference, May 2016.
  • Outdoor spaces and activities in Urban Design (oral presentation), IV World Planning School Congress, July 2016.
  • The influence and application of walkability in small and midsized Chinese cities (Ph.D Workshop), IV World Planning School Congress, July 2016.
  • Explore specificity of walkable spaces in contemporary Chinese cities: a study of context-specific behaviour for active mobility in terms of street vendors (oral presentation), Mobility, Mood and Place: Habitats for Happy and Healthy Ageing Conference, October 2016.