Mapping the Past with Present Digital Tools:
Historic Urban Landscape Research in Chinese City, Xi’an Walled City Area

Xi Wang, Feng Han*, Xiaozhe Bian and Zhifeng Li

College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT  In 2015, the Study of Xi’an Historic Walled City Regeneration Strategy applied the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Approach through experimenting and testing digital technologies following recommended action steps of HUL Approach. Within the context of urbanisation and heritage deterioration happened past decades in Chinese cities, this paper proposes an innovative HUL Information System that can be used to integrate the approach and technical support measures. This enables comprehensive identification of spatial–temporal relativity of urban landscape morphology, linking between the past and present. The use of spatial digital tools such as aerial photo modeling, geographic information system analysis, and space syntax is explored to trace the continuity of the historical landscape in the built environment. The research team uncovered the context of Xi’an’s cultural and historical landscape through historical literature and related studies over past decades, and summarised and obtained a spatial data set for  he dominant historical landscape pattern of the walled city area. Compared with the existing spatial pattern identified by digital tools, the findings showed similarity with historical landscape patterns, including part of a fengshui landform, the 17th- to 19th-century water system, and an evolving community habitat. This could be explained by the literature and academic research, which demonstrates the influence of historic landscape system in urban evolution. With this research, we aim to show the potential of the HUL Information System as a technical support for urban conservation in Chinese cities, particularly with regard to mapping resources, which is fundamental toward other relevant steps in the HUL approach.

KEYWORDS  cultural landscape, urban heritage, HUL approach, information system, digital mapping, relativity

Received September 15, 2018; accepted December 20, 2018.