China Lab

Today’s rapidly-growing Chinese megacities like Shanghai and Guangzhou present fascinating examples of emerging urbanism suspended between influences of tradition and innovation, east and west, and first and third worlds. A provocative transformation is taking place within this frenetic milieu: the emergence of a new material identity in Chinese architecture, based on a combination of explorations in new material technologies, a reinterpretation of historic building methods, and a consideration of materials not as fixed elements but as part of a continual flow of physical resources.

In this study abroad tour, students have the opportunity to visit many of these significant works and document the unique characteristics of their design and construction. We address questions such as: What constitutes a uniquely Chinese material identity? How do architects resurrect traditional building practices in new forms? What means do architects employ to apply new material technologies effectively in architecture? How are conflicts resolved between Chinese and western approaches in building construction? Participants in this traveling design studio conduct in-depth analysis and generate critical design proposals situated within Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, and beyond. These activities occur within the context of a multi-site tour in which students are exposed to new constructed landscapes and urban environments—as well as iconic historic structures and rapidly diminishing traditional neighborhoods.

ARCH 4150/5250: May Term in China. Co-taught with Xiaofeng Han (Southeast University, Nanjing). Undergraduate and graduate travel abroad studio (3 credits). University of Minnesota School of Architecture.

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