Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2023

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Architecture

Degree Name

Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism (DrSU)

Degree Type



Due to climate change and rapid urbanization, contemporary cities face the dual challenges of providing sufficient stormwater management and adequate park services, which potentially conflict over limited space and resources. To address these issues, countries around the world are increasingly combining stormwater management with park space in ways that create a multifunctional landscape with enhanced ecological services, such as low impact development in the United States, sustainable urban drainage systems in the United Kingdom, and sponge city in China. To date, efforts made to combine the two pressing demands have typically emphasized stormwater management over integration with park spaces, particularly at small-scale projects. Similarly, most research has concentrated on the performance of stormwater management rather than the techniques and ways of attaining the combined goals at broader scales. Furthermore, the urban planning and design literature provides insights into contemporary parks with multiple functions and their roles in urban sustainability. However, more research investigating the morphological and spatial features of combined stormwater infrastructure and park projects are still needed, all of which have implications for the understanding of ecological services and improving human well-being. In China, sponge city development has been leveraged to improve existing park space and, more importantly, to create a multifunctional landscape, thereby accommodating the needs of the fast-rising urban populations and mitigating the effects of urban flooding exacerbated by climate change. As such, this research investigated the combined usage of stormwater management and park services in 26 sponge city park projects in Shanghai.

Using combined methods of mapping and observation, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed to examine the multifunctionally of the selected sites in Shanghai with an emphasis on the combinations of stormwater management and park services. First, this research identified the distinctive morphological typologies of the selected sites, including the source, flow, and sink landscape through using satellite imagery and the digital elevation model of Shanghai. A category of the selected sites was developed and later used to investigate the combined use of stormwater management and park services across different urban contexts. The findings from the on-site observations revealed the most common stormwater techniques and park facilities, as well as their combined use across varied urban contexts. Subsequently, the results of measuring stormwater management and park services showed that larger sites manage more stormwater runoff and provide a broader range of park activities. Finally, connecting the morphological analysis with the assessment results, this research presented the performance of the source, flow, and sink landscape in balancing the use of stormwater management and park services.

This research is the first to evaluate the multifunctionality of the sponge city park projects that promote ecologically minded infrastructure adaptations. The results provide professional terminology that facilitates communications among policymakers, designers, and engineers, offers practical knowledge for the combined use of stormwater techniques and park facilities, and facilitates an in-depth understanding of the multifunctional approach at an unparalleled scope. In response to urban runoff problems and lack of urban green space, integrating green and grey infrastructure is encouraged to enable the transformations of existing systems and infrastructure to enhance urban sustainability.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Hongxi Yin, Chair Zhifang Wang Ian Trivers

Available for download on Thursday, August 17, 2028