Chongqing (1937-1946) / Post-Improvisation: Planning and Construction of Suburban Markets

Chongqing (1937-1946) / Post-Improvisation: Planning and Construction of Suburban Markets

As more and more people moved to the suburb due to evacuation, the city government of Chongqing established a committee aiming to improve their living environment and daily life. This Suburban Market Construction Committee belongs to the city government, and is under the supervision of Chongqing garrison headquarters. The chairman was mayor Wu Guo-zhen while the other members were experts from various disciplines, including renowned architect Guan Songsheng and Tao Guilin. The committee consists of three departments: general service department, public works department and financial department. The public works department is further divided into a design section and an engineer section, with the former in charge of surveying and project design, and the latter in charge of project budgeting, supervision and acceptance.

The main task of the committee is to select the site, survey, design and construct food markets, houses, factories, etc in the suburban area. As a guidance, they developed an “Outline for Suburban Market Construction in Chongqing”.

  • Site selection

Due to the special situation during the war, it was not possible to carry out construction in the large suburban area but only in a few experimental zones. Furthermore, since urban infrastructure and transportation network in 1940s was far from completion, the site selected must be easy to develop transportation, favoring places near the river. “Outline” claimed to “prioritize places at the intersection of major roads and waterways, whose topography is suitable for building construction” and “develop places with relatively convenient transportation and enjoyable scenery later in the second phase.”

  • Road system planning

Although the buildings constructed at that time were mostly simple and crude, the overall layout was rather thoughtful and rational. In the plan of Huangjiao-ya, Gaotan-yan and other markets, we find that the sites were mostly uncultivated land on the mountain. Therefore in order to develop the area, a three-dimensional road system needed to be constructed first. In the plan, trunk roads spiral up the topography, while the branch roads radiate accordingly forming an extensive network. Roads are categorized into 4 grades, namely type A the 7-meter road with 3-meter pedestrian streets, type B the 5-meter road with 2-meter pedestrian streets, type C and D both 3 meters in width. However, due to financial difficulties, the actual construction was downgraded to a smaller scale, from 7m to 5m and 5m to 3m respectively.

  • Functional zones and spatial arrangement

Apart from the road system, the committee also made detailed provisions on regionalization of the market areas. Usually the market area was divided into 3 zones, residential, commercial and public architecture, with park or square in center. Public architecture, including schools, hospitals, police stations, etc., are placed on the high land for convenient transportation and ease of administration. Commercial area including various shops and food markets are semi-connected to each other for accessibility. Residential buildings scattered along the previous two zones. For a smaller market zone like Gaotanyan, there was no specific zoning involved. They simply needed to follow the rule that no building should exceed 60m in length or 1.5 acres in area.

It was also necessary to have an air defense zone during the war; therefore each market should also include an area for underground tunnels in their plan.

  • Implementation

During the implementation of the plan, the committee was directly responsible for the construction of public architecture including schools and hospitals, while commercial programs like food markets are jointly managed by private operators and the committee. All the public architecture was not constructed at once, but in a staged manner according to the financial situation. Many manufactories were involved in the construction of these suburban markets, including Xinshu Manufactory, Jihua Manufactory, Dahua Manufactory, Lixin Engineering Company, Xinsheng-shuhua Industrial Company and many others.

Just like the Evacuation Committee established in the emergency of war, the Suburban Market Construction Committee also lasted for only 3 years from 1939 to 1941. However, it made great contribution in improving the residents’ living condition and promoting the overall development of suburban Chongqing area.

  1. Zhang Gong, The History of Chongqing as Capital City of the National Government of China (Chongqing: The Xinan University Press, 1993).
  2. Xie Xuan, Study on the Urban Construction and Planning of Chongqnig (1947-1949), PhD diss, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, 2011, China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House.
  3. Zhou Yong, The History of Wartime Chongqing 1931-1945 (Chongqing: Chongqing Press, 2013).
  4. Chongqing Editing Committee on Wartime Matters, Chongqing Kang Zhan Da Shi Ji 重庆抗战大事记, (Chongqing: Chongqing Press, 1995).
  5. Long Bin and Zhao Yao, 《陪都十年建设计划草案》的制订及规划评述, 西部人居环境学刊, Issue 5, 2005, pp.100-106.
  6. Wu Tai-chang, Modern Development Strategies for the Yangtze River Region, (China Financial and Economic Publishing House,1996)

2 Comments on “Chongqing (1937-1946) / Post-Improvisation: Planning and Construction of Suburban Markets

  1. I started to understand the idea of “defensive city” after reading your post about the planning of the surburbs. The risk from the war was took into consideration in all parts of the design from the site selection to the detailed design of the architectures. In my opinion, chongqing was always regenerating after bombs time and time again. It seems that regeneration was also an important part of a defensive city. Therefore, I am wondering how the committee treated the houses that were destoried by the bomb and how did they relocate the residents.

  2. I am quite interested in the arrangement of functional zones and spatial arrangement in the planning of Chongqing. The market area was divided into residential, commercial areas, including shops and food markets, and public facilities, including the schools, hospitals, police stations. Actually, it reminds me of the development plan of Seoul in the 70s. The Seoul government at that time tries to form 3 nuclei plan to develop Seoul into a multi-centre urban structure. At that time, Seoul government was trying to turn Gangnam into another high-dense city center. The historical context is different in the case of Chongqing, which is to fulfil the requirement for the immigrant population toward the suburbs, while in Seoul’s case is to encourage the immigrant of the population towards Gangnam. But they are all trials to rearrange and relocate new areas for the development of the city through zoning in a top-to-down planning method.

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