Studio Summary

This joint studio led by developer Vincent Lo (Shui On Land), and architects Paul Katz, Jamie von Klemperer and Forth Bagley (Kohn Pedersen Fox), examines super dense, vertically oriented urban architecture in Western China.

Over the last twenty years, China has experienced unprecedented urban growth coupled with the shifting demographics of a rising middle class and an increasingly diversified economy based on manufacturing as well as services. In the next twenty years, it is expected that this transition will quicken and spread. 350 million people – the equivalent of the entire population of the United States – will migrate from the countryside to China’s burgeoning urban centers between now and 2030.

Most of China’s urban growth to this point has taken place in the country’s eastern cities where large, isolated mixed-use blocks have became the predominant architectural solution for directing shifting demographics, accommodating unprecedented increases in urban density and catering to an increasingly-globalized middle class. As economic growth and diversification in China moves west – to cities like Chengdu, Kunming and Chongqing – the country’s planners are looking to other models of urban planning to enrich that model and create lasting, sustainable and enlivened urban projects.

When Vincent Lo’s Xintiandi opened in Shanghai in 2001 it fundamentally reshaped expectations about what China’s urban future could look like. Never before had a developer in China so attempted to preserve China’s cultural past, integrate new private development with existing or nearby urban context, and elevate the urban experience by melding so many different program and user types. Xintiandi’s success as a mixed-use neighborhood offers an immediate and sustainable model of how China’s western cities can cope with unprecedented urban density and still create lasting civic spaces.

In this studio, students will travel with the professors to Shanghai and Chongqing, examining Xintiandi as well as other super dense vertically connected urban projects which have informed Mr. Lo’s and KPF’s work. They will design a high-density, vertically oriented mixed-use project on the site of Chongqing’s central rail station, in western China, using the programmatic building blocks of Xintiandi, including but not limited to office, hotel, residential, retail, entertainment, cultural and green program.

Working individually, students’ final projects may take the form of supertall skyscrapers, superblocks or other high-density typologies, but all must maximize density on the site, reconciling the desire for lettable area with a broader goal of creating public and private spaces, crafting civic identity and fostering sustainable lifestyles through connections to infrastructure and greenspace.