Mapping rhythms in Beijing: Looking for urban quality in daily practices
Urban quality has become a pervasive concern not only in China but also in most contemporary cities. Yet before considering how urban planning could be done in order to achieve quality, it is necessary to question how this concept is defined and measured. John Friedmann suggested that urbanization is not simply a matter of material growth but rather a dynamic and multidimensional socio-spatial process. Similarly, we could say that urban quality is defined by various agencies and constituted by overlapping dimensions. In such conditions, how do we account for the multiple meanings that urbanites give to it? In this research I explore this idea of urban quality by examining it under the perspective of Beijing residents. Because cities acquire their quality also by virtue of responding to their citizens’ expectations, I investigate how Beijingers practice the city and help create – or, on the contrary, suffer from the lack of – urban quality. Mapping daily rhythms, the variety of activities that are being performed and the different spaces in which individuals are moving, gives us some useful insights into the city, as it is lived. It reveals urban patterns by informing us for example on the formation of new centralities, the lack of urban ‘mixity’ and its consequences or the expression of behaviours that “avoid” the city. Acknowledging such situations can help us make a step towards new solutions to develop urban quality.