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Zhixi C. Zhuang

Zhixi C. Zhuang

Associate Professor; Founder and Director, DiverCity Lab; Academic Director, Toronto Metropolitan Centre for Immigration and Settlement
EducationPhD, MUPD, BArch, MCIP, RPP
OfficeSBB-416, South Bond Building
Phone416-979-5000, ext. 556767
Areas of ExpertiseMigration and cities; Ethnic entrepreneurship and retailing; Diversity and inclusive planning; Place-making; Suburban retrofit

Dr. Zhixi Zhuang is a Registered Professional Planner and an Associate Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning. As the Academic Director of the Toronto Metropolitan Centre for Immigration and Settlement and Founder and Director of DiverCityLab (external link, opens in new window) , her research explores the growing urban diversity in Canadian cities and how city-builders can instil the values of equity and inclusion into planning policies and practices. Specifically, she investigates the intersections of individual characteristics and the impacts on lived experiences in cities, and how diversity and differences shape places and communities.

Her work focuses on the long-lasting marks of immigrant and racialized communities on urban and suburban landscapes, inscribing places with important cultural, historical, and political meanings. Her recent and ongoing research involves interdisciplinary projects examining the intersection of immigrant settlement, urban landscapes, and municipal policies, which has generated key peer-reviewed publications on topics such as building welcoming infrastructure to attract and retain migrants in non-traditional gateway cities, the influence of immigrant entrepreneurship on city building, ethnic place-making in ‘third places,’ migration and suburban transformation, and the role of municipal planning in immigrant settlement and integration.

She has conducted mixed-method, arts-informed, and community-based research, effectively engaging immigrant community members and city building professionals to gain a holistic perspective on immigrant integration, place-making, civic engagement, and inclusive policy-making. Her research addresses the impacts of global migration on local governance as well as inclusive community-building and sheds light on equity-based approaches to planning with diversity.  One of her recent creative outputs funded by SSHRC is a documentary “Globurbia: Suburban Place-making Amidst Diversity (external link, opens in new window) ”.

Dr. Zhuang is currently an appointed member of the Global Planning Education Committee (GPEC) at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), an Associate Editor of the Journal of Planning Education and Research (JPER), and a Director on the Board at the International Association of China Planning (IACP).

Teaching interests:

  • Diversity and inclusive planning
  • Multicultural cities and planning policies
  • Immigrant settlement experiences in Canada
  • Planning studios
  • Physical planning and design fundamentals
  • Field research projects and field camps

Philosophy of teaching:

  • To help students realize their potential to grow and become autonomous learners

  • To provide students with applied cases of urban development within the context of contemporary city-building

  • To engage students in critical thinking around the capacity of the planning profession to respond to future urban challenges

Research interests:

  • Migration and cities: immigrant settlement and integration, non-traditional gateway cities, housing for international students, welcoming cities and communities, social isolation and loneliness in older immigrants
  • Ethnic entrepreneurship and retailing: immigrant businesses, ethnic enclaves and concentrations, ethnic retailing, mixed-embeddedness
  • Diversity and inclusive planning: rights to the city, community engagement, equity-deserving groups, lived experiences, power dynamics, campus inclusivity
  • Place-making: third places, main streets, arts-based intervention
  • Suburban retrofit: immigrant suburbs, social infrastructure, suburban ethnic strips and malls

Selected publications

Journal articles:

  • Edge, S., Zhuang, Z. C., Dean, J. (2024). Reshaping essential public spaces and services: Towards socio-spatial justice in a post-pandemic era. Town Planning Review. (accepted)
  • Metersky, K., Zhuang, Z. C., St-Amant, O., Guruge, S. (2023). Lessons learned from recruiting socially isolated older immigrants for a survey-based study in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2023). A Place-based Approach to Understanding Immigrant Retention and Integration in Canadian and American Non-traditional Gateway Cities: A Scoping Literature Review. Journal of International Migration & Integration.
  • Zhuang, Z. C., & Lok, R. T. (2023). Exploring the Wellbeing of Migrants in Third Places: An Empirical Study of Smaller Canadian Cities, Wellbeing, Space & Society. Volume 4.
  • Sidani, S., Northwood, M., Sethi, B., Zhuang, Z. C., Edhi, K. (2022). Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Immigrants during COVID-19: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care. Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 164-178. 
  • Dean, J., Zhuang, Z. C., Edge, S. (2021). From Classrooms to Boardrooms: Applying a multi-scale coordinated approach to an anti-racist future for the Canadian planning system. Plan Canada. Winter. 21-24.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2021). The Negotiation of Space and Rights: Suburban Planning with Diversity. Urban Planning, 6(2): 113-126.
  • Zhuang, Z. C., Edge, S., Dean, J. (2021). What is the Future of Public Space? Hidden Stories of Immigrant Suburbs during a Global Pandemic. Town Planning Review, 92, (2), 229–237.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2019). Ethnic Entrepreneurship and Place-making in Toronto’s Ethnic Retail Neighbourhoods. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie. 110(5): 520-537.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2017). The Intersection of Place and Ethnic Entrepreneurship: The Role of Ethnic Entrepreneurs in the Making of Three Toronto Neighbourhoods (external link) . Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 34(1): 1-22.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. and Chen, A. X. (2017). The Role of Ethnic Retailing in Retrofitting Suburbia: Case Studies from Toronto, Canada (external link) . Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability. 10(3): 275-295 (published online 14 Nov 2016)
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2015). Construction and Reconstruction of Ethnicity in Retail Landscapes: Case Studies in the Toronto Area (external link) . Journal of Urban Design. 20(5): 677-697
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2013). Rethinking Multicultural Planning: An Empirical Study of Ethnic Retailing (external link) . Canadian Journal of Urban Research. 22 (2), 90-116.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2009). Ethnic Retailing and Implications for Planning Multicultural Communities. Plan Canada Special Edition. 79-82.

Book chapters:

  • Zhuang, Z. C. & Lok, R. (2024). Aging in Third Places: Creating Community Spaces and Building Social Infrastructure for Senior Immigrants. In Guruge, S. & Sidani, S. (Eds.) Intersections of Aging and Immigration: W5 (What, Where, When, Why, Who) of the Promise and the Paradox of a Better Life. University of British Columbia Press (Accepted)
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2024). Suburban Migration: Interrogating the Intersections of Global Migration and Suburban Transformation. In Triandafyllidou, A., Moghadam, A., Kelly, M., Mencutek, Z. S. (Eds.) Migration, Diversity and the City. IMISCOE. (Accepted).
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2020). Cities of Migration: The Role of Municipal Planning in Immigrant Settlement and Integration. In Samy, Y. & H. Duncan (Eds.) International Affairs and Canadian Migration Policy. pp. 205-226. Ottawa: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2020). The Impact of Immigrant Entrepreneurship on City Building: Learning from Toronto. In Liu, C. Y. (Ed.) Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Cities: Global Perspectives. pp. 195-211. Springer.
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2017). Creating Third Places: Ethnic Retailing and Place-making in Metropolitan Toronto, in N. Wise and J. Clark (Eds.) Urban Transformations: Geographies of Renewal and Creative Change. pp. 97-114. London: Routledge. 
  • Zhuang, Z. C. (2016). Planning for Diversity in a Suburban Retrofit Context: The Case of Ethnic Shopping Malls in the Toronto Area, in. R. Thomas (Ed.), Planning Canada: A Case Study Approach. pp. 134-142. Toronto: Oxford University Press, Canada.
  • Zhuang, Z. C., Hernandez, T., and Wang, S. (2015). Ethnic Retailing, in. H. Bauder and J. Shields (Eds.), Immigrant Experiences in North America. pp. 223-247. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
  • Hoernig, H. and Zhuang, Z. C. (2010). New Diversity: Social Change as Immigration, in: T. Bunting, P. Filion, and R. Walker (4th eds.), Canadian Cities in Transition: New Directions in the 21st Century, pp. 150-169. Toronto: Oxford University Press.


Globurbia: Suburban place-making amidst diversity

With increasing suburbanization of immigrant populations, ethnic neighbourhoods have speckled the suburban landscapes. The stereotypically homogeneous suburban landscapes have been transformed by ethnic communities who bring new identities and new meanings to the space. What has become imperative for suburban municipalities to understand is how these ethnic neighbourhoods have emerged and evolved, how ethnic communities have played a role in suburban place-making, and more importantly, what municipal planning interventions (e.g., planning policies and processes) are appropriate and effective to enhance the advantages of urban diversity and manage unprecedented social, cultural, economic, physical, and political changes that challenge conventional suburban planning. This documentary explores the increasing diversity in Toronto’s suburbs and the place-making challenges and opportunities. The research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Place Matters

There are few studies that explore newcomers’ lived experiences in small and medium-sized cities from a comparative place-based synthesis. Place Matters when it comes to the understanding of the complexity of newcomer retention and integration. Funded by CERC in Migration and Integration, this research engaged 17 immigrants, refugees, and temporary foreign workers residing in nine small and medium-sized cities across Canada. 13 participants contributed their Photovoice to this online exhibition. The research reveals that third places play an important role in shaping migrants’ lived experiences in smaller cities and have an impact on their wellbeing when considering the opportunity for social interaction, and accessibility to ethnocultural amenities, social services, and nature. 

Campus inclusivity: Exploring the lived experiences of international students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Funded by TMU International, this project aims to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of International Students (IS) at Toronto Metropolitan University during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores IS’ social, cultural, health, financial, and academic needs, as well as their perceptions, perspectives, and personal narratives around integration and inclusivity. 21 IS from diverse academic and ethno-cultural backgrounds were interviewed, 14 of whom contributed their Photovoice to this online exhibition. This report aims to make action-oriented recommendations that address the following pillars: daily needs, social adjustment, career trajectory, health and wellness, and academic life and aims to support and enhance inclusive IS experiences.

ARTIVATE (Arts + Activate): Animating campus spaces through arts

During a three-week Sino-Canadian planning field camp in Guangzhou, China, we conducted small pop-up experiments by using ARTS as a means of intervention to ACTIVATE underutilized campus spaces at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. We called it ARTivate. These interventions were small and informal. Similar to guerrilla urbanism, our tactical approaches were temporary pop-up actions, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. However, we saw immediate impacts on the space and the users,  which eventually informed our design interventions. Check out the three-minute video that documents how arts-based interventions were at play to ARTivate campus spaces.

  • MCIP member, Canadian Institute of Planners
  • OPPI member, Ontario Professional Planners Institute
  • RPP, Registered Professional Planner