Background of Macau Urban Development

The strategic location of Macao on the Chinese territory, and the special relationship established between the Chinese and Portuguese authorities favoured an important interchange of human values in the various fields of culture, sciences, technology, art and architecture over several centuries. (UNESCO 2005)

Macau was under the colony of Portuguese in the period of 1557-1999. Under this period, the development of urban spaces was influenced under both the Portuguese and Chinese cultural identities, especially regarding the public spaces like squares.

The history of Macau development can be grouped into three stages. The first period of territorialisation started from 1557 till 1987 Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, with the Luso-Chinese Friendship and Commercial Treaty in 1887. This was the first period for the Portuguese to takeover Macau. They had flexible strategies on urban planning according to their own culture. It was to secure their power and political influence over the Chinese.

The second period was a period of deterritorialisation lasting from 1987 Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration till the handover of Macau back to China in 1999. The Declaration provided conditions on urban setting of Macau that led the urban development into a different way in order to uphold Deng Xiaping’s policy of “one country, two systems” which ultimately integrated the territory into China.

The third period started after the handover of Macau to China, until now. This is a period of reterritorialisation of reconfiguration and rescaling of territory. As the Strategic Spatial Planning for the new Pearl River Delta (PRD) Mega City Region has re-organised and rescaled the spatial structure of different areas including Guangzhou, Foshan, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and Zhuhai, this results in reconfiguration and rescaling the territory of Macau into a new urban region of the PRD in a larger scale, to become more regional and more globalized in economic competitiveness.



“Exploration in Urban Design, an urban design research primer” – edited by Matthew Carmona – The politics of space production: the case of Macau, China – Paula



3 Comments on “Background of Macau Urban Development

  1. Public spaces and typology was mentioned in the first stage, how about the second and the third stages? What were “the conditions on urban setting to that led the urban development into a different way in order to uphold Deng Xiaping’s policy of “one country, two systems” ? How did these condition affected the built environment or the life styles of the people?

  2. The sovereignity over Macau at different stages by different cultures should have brought drastic changes in its urban planning, policy and development directions etc. It is seen from today that the Portugese influence on this place is profound, with many its cultural traces left in the town, like the Portugese streets, buildings etc. Even after years of ruling under China, this kind of cultural atmosphere remains to be intense. However, the Chinese culture does not seem to have obviouslty changed the urbanscape nor immersed into the land. It is understandable that comparing to the 500years of sovereignity, a decade of it is only a small potato. Yet, until today, Macau remains to be a land of tourism in its Portugese culture and gambling, in which both of them are not originated from China. So, what had the Chinese done in developing Macau? Or it is only redeveloping other’s culture?

  3. For stage two, after the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, the citadel wall was destroyed, hence also blurred the boundary for the territory between the Portuguese and the Chinese settlements. The deterritorialisation stage then started and the urban development also began to start on the north part of the original citadel wall. And for stage three, it was planned after the handover to China. It was about a larger scale and there were continuous developments till now and to be extended to the future. It was an urban planning project not just covering Macau but also the Pearl River Delta. These conditions are affecting the development of the urban designing of Macau as in my next blog “The Evolution of Block and Street Structure”. These were the different stages that cause Macau to be developed in different systems.
    Since the handover to China in 1999, the major planning was the development of the project of PRD which was in such a large scale, including different regions such as Guangzhou, Foshan, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and Zhuhai.

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