Supergrid, Superblock, Design Philosophy, Urban Structure, Cultural influence

Supergrid and Superblock: Lessons in Urban Structure from China and Japan

In this superbly illustrated book Xiaofei Chen presents the first analysis in English of a ubiquitous East Asian urban phenomenon: the supergrid and superblock urban structure.

The book opens with an introductory essay by Barrie Shelton in which he sets the scene for what is to follow, emphasizing how alien this structure was to Western urban design culture where radial patterns of development were the norm. Then, in her first chapter, Chen explains the make-up of the supergrid and superblock urban structure and its contrasting Chinese and Japanese forms. In the following three chapters she digs deep into the history, cultural origins, and underlying design philosophy of the supergrid and superblock to show how, under different cultural influences, the model has developed into two distinct forms. Two further chapters (5 and 6) provide detailed analysis of two sample superblocks in China (in Xi’an and Nanjing) and two in Japan (in Kyoto and Osaka) to reveal the relative advantages and disadvantages of how the structure is manifest in the two countries. In her conclusion she discusses her findings (or reflects on her work) to show how and why the supergrid and superblock structure is a valuable urban design model which, with regional adjustments, can be used effectively in cities other than those of East Asia. 

Xiaofei Chen is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of Qingdao University of Technology. After completing Bachelors (Built Environments) and Masters (Urban Design) degrees at the University of Melbourne, and her PhD from the University of Sydney, she returned to China and to her home city of Qingdao. 

Barrie Shelton, author of Learning from the Japanese City and co-author of The Making of Hong Kong (both published in the Planning, History, and Environment series) held senior positions at the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney, and Melbourne. He now lives with his wife Emiko in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.


An Introductory Essay: From Radials and Grids to Supergrids and Superblocks
Barrie Shelton

  1. An Eastern Supergrid and Superblock Model
  2. Supergrid and Superblock History
  3. Culture
  4. Theory
  5. Practice in China: The Kingdom of Walls and Gates
  6. Practice in Japan: The Hidden Floor
  7. Supergrid and Superblock: A System for Global Consideration

Appendix 1. Chronological Outline of Chinese and Japanese History
Appendix 2. Notes on Data and Method