The urban square is normally treated as the node of the city and presented as a vivid asset to support the people’s urban social life, which contributes to the health of people, the cohesion of the community, and development of the economy. However, currently in China, a few number of squares, although having a large amount invested in them, lack use, and seem to be abounded by the citizens. There could be a number of reasons for this, including: the unawareness of the changing social aspiration of urban squares due to the change of social culture and people’s life style in the planning and design; or during the globalisation era of design, the successful cases of urban squares in the west were referenced to China ponderously with a lack to the thought regarding cultural issues and therefore there is a mismatch of expectation between the providers of public squares, and their users in China.

In this situation, the author decided to carry out the research on delivering the design guidance of socially responsive urban squares in Chinese cities. In this research, one key objective is to investigate the real Chinese aspirations and current usage patterns of urban squares, and therefore a few research methods had been attempted during the pilot studies. The implementation of the integration of panorama and GIS behaviour mapping was eventually identified as the most effective and accurate way to collect and present the real social uses of a square and the semi-structured interviews are used to obtain insight into the Chinese aspirations for the uses of squares.

This research produced a valuable conceptual framework, which included a series of conceptual models for establishing socially responsive urban squares to echo socially sustainable urbanism in the modern Chinese cities. This research identifies a way to increase the social value of urban open public squares through appropriate design in modern China. The outcomes of this research will be not only a valuable contribution to the theoretical structure of Chinese urban public realm but also a positive and applicable reference to be used by practitioners in practical projects.