LJMU researchers are to help regenerate post-industrial sites of China after successfully bidding for £250,000 funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Liverpool School of Art and Design researchers, Emma Roberts and Jon Spruce, and Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering researcher Fang Bin Guo, applied for support from the AHRC’s Newton China Fund after recognising a need for artists and spatial designers to contribute to urban renewal projects in China.
While China has enjoyed huge economic growth in recent years, since 2011 half of the country’s population has been living in city centres, which has led to mass urbanisation, and has developed the need to regenerate post-industrial sites. Previous regeneration projects have been completed in the country and, although they have been successful in terms of commercial success through retail and entertainment facilities, due to the design and planning failing to take into account the different contexts of each location, they have not provided opportunities for smaller, local businesses or addressed community needs.
Dr Emma Roberts explains: “There are unique characteristics of every locality and community which are particularly pertinent for the development of local creative economies, where an understanding of local skills, trading histories, cultural heritage, and the social narratives that bind cohesive community identity, can help deliver more effective and sustainable regeneration strategies. To further inform the opportunities for the sustainable growth of China’s creative economy, there is a need for research that engages more socially inclusive modes of enquiry. Therefore, we are aiming to establish a multi-disciplinary research network of UK & Chinese academics to pursue research activities through engagement with cultural, and commercial stakeholders, and other constituent groups; utilising observational and participatory research methods in the investigation of alternative strategies for sustainable urban renewal of China’s in post-industrial areas.”
The researchers will be working in the cities of Beijing, Shenyang, Dalian and Wushan, along with Chinese partner organisations, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, Dalian Polytechnic University, The Chinese National Academy of Painting.
Jon Spruce adds: “This project represents a great opportunity to be in the vanguard of UK-China collaborative exchange, helping to shape the sustainable development of China's growing creative economy. Design and cultural heritage research can play a crucial role in ensuring that the development of a broad-based creative economy retains alignment to local contexts, promoting both wealth creation and quality of life through human-centred investigation. It will be a privilege to work closely with our Chinese partners over the project's three-year duration, and generate further opportunities to forge sustained relationships of creative and collaborative exchange for the future."
Dr Fang Bin Guo, who is the Project Lead, outlines how he previously worked at two of the Chinese institutions which will be working with the LJMU team: “My LJMU colleagues and I are delighted to be successful recipients of this AHRC award. As the Chinese-born member of the LJMU team, I am also aware that I am a cross-cultural representative who is instrumental in linking together the nations of the UK and China, and also LJMU, with our Chinese partners. My initial training was done at Luxun Academy of Fine Art, and I was formerly a Programme Leader at Dalian Polytechnic University before joining the staff at LJMU. I have brought together my previous institutions to work with LJMU and I feel that this is in the spirit of LJMU’s international outlook.”
The AHRC’s Newton Fund aims to promote the economic development and social welfare of partner countries, working closely with them to identify areas where arts and humanities research can make a significant contribution.