Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (6): 845-868.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1509-6

• Research Articles • Previous Articles    

Evolution of the commercial blocks in ancient Beijing city from the street network perspective

Fang WANG1,2(), Jing HE1, Chunyan JIANG1, Yixi LI3   

  1. 1. Sino-German Joint Laboratory on Urbanization and Locality Research (UAL), College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    2. Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Ministry of Education, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    3. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
  • Received:2017-11-27 Accepted:2018-01-30 Online:2018-06-20 Published:2018-12-26
  • About author:

    Author: Wang Fang, PhD and Professor, specialized in planning theory and method of locality in built environment. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.51778005;Sino-German Center (National Natural Science Foundation of China and German Science Foundation), No.GZ1201


The synergistic relationship between urban functions and street networks has always been a focus in the field of urban research and practice. From the perspective of street networks, by adopting space syntax, this study analyzed the deep structural characteristics and potential evolution rules of commercial blocks attached to street networks in different periods, as well as the corresponding economic, political, and cultural characteristics of ancient Beijing city over the past 800 years. By combining these with changes in the street network, we further explained the function mechanism of layout and level adjustment in commercial blocks, and the influence of the street network on commercial blocks in the process of historical change. The main conclusions included the following: (1) The urban centripetal-centrifugal siphon effect: the layout form, topological structure, and traffic mode changes in the street network had corresponding guidance for the layout and hierarchical system of commercial blocks, while the centripetal development of the street network could guide the agglomeration effect of commercial blocks, although centrifugal development caused commercial blocks to display outward evacuation. (2) Stage transformation from mutation node to smooth development: the layout of commercial blocks came to depend on the ability to cross the commuting flow center, which originally relied on the accessibility of transportation nodes as local centers. Changes in traffic modes mainly affected the adjustment of the first-level commercial blocks, which easily led to overall layout mutation. Traffic levels have an obvious positive hierarchical relation with the second- and third-level commercial blocks. (3) The adaptation of traditional commercial blocks to the needs of a modern city: affected by the different emerging times and unevenness of the original commercial foundation, commercial blocks have formed various developmental models that meet the needs of modernization, and reach a balance between cultural continuity and functional adaptation.

Key words: commercial block, street network, urban spatial-temporal evolution, space syntax, ancient Beijing city