Taipei (1996-2006)/ Community Environment Remodelling Scheme: 2.1- Empowerment of Citizen Participation

Transforming the authoritarian rule of Kuomintang to democracy, Chen launched Community Environment Remodelling Scheme, as the empowerment of citizen participation, also as a tool to solve the homogeneity of the street space [1]. As the city was growing in scales and complexity, top-down city planning spatially reflected social hierarchy, from limited access to particular spaces to different land-use distribution. Through giving weights to different functions to the land while prioritizing defense and hygiene, the authority was only able to improve fundamental functions of the city, for instance, the division of districts and the infrastructural system, but inevitably neglecting the spatial experience of the citizens. Including citizens to the process of decision making, from planning, design to construction redistributed the political power of the original city structure, the government and professionals no longer took the only charge of urban planning.

Fig.1 – Town plan of Taipei showing the abundance of residential use (Source: Taipei City Archives, 1995)

To resolve the out-of-control urban growth, Chen proposed the scheme with the technique of bottom-up urban planning while continuing the construction of massive infrastructure, thus taking an in-between position when the citizens had more agency in how their built environment changed within the fast-growing economic force, political alliances, and social pressure. The deceleration of urban development moved on to spatial planning of the place, which began to take account of every category of city users, each with very diverse but conflicting needs. Social tension, impoverishment, segregation and social hierarchy, were the pitfalls of top-down planning that the professionals and citizens must work to counter at a slow pace [2]

The community-based scheme aimed at full participation of citizens, stimulating their consciousness of living environment, to refine and brush up the habitats of many communities. Under the consent and support of citizens, the city improved as a whole with immediate and effective consequents in small scales, further motivated the citizens and professionals to continually devote in the reshaping of the space. “From little things, big things grow. Spend little for something big.” are the slogans of the scheme, emphasizing the provision of a communication channel for citizens to engage and actualize their imagination of the ordinary living environment, igniting the sense of mission and social responsibility in themselves, simultaneously resolving Taipei urban crisis in the 1980s after the lifting of martial law, to reconstruct a transparent decision-making mechanism under public supervision.


[1] 專業者都市改革組織、社區改造聯盟. “地區環境改造計劃:執行成果評果與機制強化策略規劃.” 台北市地區環境改造計劃研討會, June 21, 1999.

[2] 欣隆 吳. “都市更新的前世今生.” 專業者都市改革組織, 1996.

1 Comment on “Taipei (1996-2006)/ Community Environment Remodelling Scheme: 2.1- Empowerment of Citizen Participation

  1. In my opinion, a top-down approach of urban planning is the implementation of urban theories with hypothetical outcomes. It was a efficient way in achieving observable results which suggest the reason a lot of countries also uses a top-down approach during modernization. The setback is indeed the discrepancies between the plan and reality that causes social unrest.

    I really appreciate the fact that the Taipei government understood the limits of a top-down approach and went for a bottom-up planning that involves the citizens who are the most familiar with their own hometown. I would say this embodies of idea of Taipei “modernizing” in society as they consider the people as the core of the city. The real situation of the people were often neglected due to rapid urbanization as a way of modernization, which I thought was a deterioration instead as the city is just planned on a sheet of paper instead of observing the real social problems. It was a smart and realistic move to involve citizens in urban planning as the outcome will be more specific to each location and also raise the sense of belonging towards their city.

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