A group of 18 students, led by Assistant Professor Romesh Goonewardene and PhD candidate He Shan, undertook an architectural study tour of the lower Yangtze Delta in early April 2013. Together they visited numerous institutions, places and sites, as part of the Master of Architecture elective unit ‘Asian Megacities: Cultures of Hyperdensity'.
The elective focuses on critical design practices for urban life in the emerging cities of the future. Notably, the group conducted a workshop discussion, ‘Cultures of Hyperdensity' convened at Zhejiang University (ZJU) School of Architecture in Hangzhou, where they were greeted by the Dean, Professor Luo Qingping, the Associate Dean Professor Ge Jian, and Master of Architecture students from the ZJU School.
The catalyst for the trip was the research work and selfless organisation by He Shan, a graduate of ZJU, and co-teacher of the unit. Shan's PhD work concerns the impact of new infrastructure techniques on the form and patterns of the city. The introduction of a large network of high-speed trains will reduce travel times between the major metropolitan regions of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou to 30 minutes, effectively creating a single urban agglomeration, or ‘megacity' with a population of 40 million, and an as-yet unknown potential to grow well beyond that.
The students researched various topics in the urban and design culture of the megacity, and Shan arranged a busy schedule of visits to specific project sites, design offices, design schools and government facilities.
The itinerary took in the Urban Planning Institutions of Shanghai and Hangzhou, and another design school, the Chinese Academy of Art (CAA), whose chair is the current Pritzker Architecture Prize winning architect, Wang Shu. Students engaged in another workshop with CAA students and staff, and were able to visit numerous Wang Shu projects in and around Hangzhou.
One of the major themes of the travelling unit was ‘the Walled and the Unwalled (ancient and modern) city' in which some engagement with the historical morphology of the cities was explored. The itinerary finished with visits to Nanjing and Suzhou, famous ancient cities of China, in which the remnant fabric of the premodern city continue to exert a mysterious force on planning decision-making and urban culture.
Nanjing is one of few cities to have retained its magnificent Imperial City wall, and Suzhou, once known as the ‘Venice of the East' , its old canal system and traditional neighbourhoods. Both of these cities face significant challenges from the pressure of development and varying degrees of commitment to conservation.
The student projects consist of design-research and will culminate in a series of exhibition panels for the final semester exhibition. It is hoped that visit will lead to future collaborations with Zhejiang University and ongoing opportunities for students and staff to enter and engage with the massive, complex world of developing China.
Laura Radovan | Communications Officer | +61 8 6488 1859