11.307 / 4.166 Beijing Urban Design Studio

Summer 2006

Reweave Xibahe Village: A final proposal from the class.One of the final presentation boards from the class showing the proposed design of Group C. (Image courtesy of Angela Meehan, Feifei Zhao, Shilpa Mehta, Reilly Rabitaille, Matthew Brownell. Used with permission.)

Course Highlights

This intensive five week studio in Beijing, China meets every day while it is in session. The final publication of the studio, and the work of the assignments leading up to it, are presented in the projects section. There is also an image gallery from the trip.

Course Description

This is the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Urban Design Studio, which is a joint program between the MIT and Tsinghua University Schools of Architecture and Planning. The goal of the studio is to foster international cooperation through the undertaking of a joint urban design and planning initiative in the city of Beijing involving important, often controversial, sites and projects. Since 1995, almost 250 MIT and Tsinghua University students and faculty have participated in this annual studio, making it one of the most successful and enduring international academic programs between China and the U.S. It has received the Irwin Sizer Award from MIT for outstanding innovation in education. The studio takes place over five weeks in June and July including several weeks in residence at Tsinghua University and two brief study tours to locations and projects that inform the work. It will include 18-20 MIT and 10-15 Tsinghua Architecture and Planning students. The Beijing City Planning Institute, responsible for strategic planning in the city, participates in the studio as the client.

Special Features


The Beijing Urban Design Studio

Celebrating Twenty Years of International Collaboration

For five weeks this summer, a group of 20 MIT graduate students in architecture, planning and real estate joined with a dozen graduate students from Beijing's Tsinghua University to work together on issues of urban design and development in the context of China's breakneck modernization.

The work marked the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Urban Design Studio, a joint program between the schools of architecture and planning at MIT and at Tsinghua University. Since 1985, close to 400 students and faculty have taken part in the studio, making it one of the world's most enduring academic programs between the U.S. and China.

The goal of the studio is to foster international understanding of urban issues by undertaking joint city planning and design projects involving important, often controversial sites in Beijing. Conducted every other summer, the studio has received the Irwin Sizer Award from MIT for outstanding innovation in education.

This year's studio coincided with the third annual conference of the China Planning Network. The studio opened with a major exhibition at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Center near Tiananmen Square, commemorating the history of the studio and displaying twenty years of work on sites across the city.

At the opening, Dean Adèle Naudé Santos and Tsinghua Dean Wenyi Zhu signed an agreement establishing the Urbanization Laboratory, which will build on the work of the studio through a continuing agenda of joint research and projects focused on the challenges of rapid urbanization.

Conducted on the Tsinghua campus in Beijing, northeast of the city center, the Beijing Urban Design Studio involves a total immersion in place and process - six-day weeks of 8-12 hour days. Several mornings each week are spent in lectures on the history and current development of Chinese cities, and participants visit housing areas, shopping, parks and historic monuments in Beijing. Study tours at the beginning and middle of the studio expose students to new development projects as well as traditional towns and sites that relate to the problem at hand.

This year the studio focused on the issue of Beijing's vast migrant population, by preparing an urban design and development plan for the Sun Palace neighborhood in the rapidly growing area of northeast Beijing. Sun Palace is an urban village, a remnant of the agricultural past that now houses almost 5000 migrant workers and their families living in courtyard houses, many still owned by former farmers. They work in construction and service industries but cannot afford conventional housing. Nearby a new subway stop is under construction, and high rise buildings press in.

The studio addressed whether this resource of affordable housing and traditional culture can be maintained and how to balance transit-oriented development at the subway with the needs of the neighborhood. To answer these questions and others, students interacted with local residents, city officials and experts on transportation and real estate. They assessed strategic options for the neighborhood and proposed comprehensive plans for the program, design and development of Sun Palace. Proposals ranged from establishing the area as a regional logistics center to creating a living and working cultural oasis in Beijing.

The work was accomplished by interdisciplinary teams combining skills in urban design, architecture, land use planning, transportation, sustainability, urban sociology and real estate development. Tsinghua students helped with understanding the social issues involved as well as collaborating on the design proposals. The Beijing City Planning Institute, responsible for strategic planning in the city, participated in the studio as the client. The complete work was exhibited at Tsinghua University and will be published in World Architecture, China's leading design magazine.

The studio was led by professors Dennis Frenchman and Jan Wampler of MIT - who have both been involved in leading the program since 1987 - and Professors Zhang Jie and Srepresentations of self, family history, race, gender, personal values, letters, emails, blogs, journals, poetry, memoirs, autobiographies, self-portraiture, narrativehan Jun of Tsinghua University. Other faculty members included Yung Ho Chang, head of MIT's Department of Architecture, and Wu Liangyong, Director of the Institute of Architectural and Urban Studies at Tsinghua University, Center for Human Settlements.

Other faculty from MIT who have participated over the years include John deMonchaux, Kenneth Kruckemeyer, Paul Lukez, Chris Zegras and Juan Du. (Gary Hack, who started the studio at MIT in 1985, is now dean of architecture at Penn; Ric Richardson, also formerly of MIT, is now dean at New Mexico.)

The Beijing Studio is a Joint Program of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, with participants from both architecture and planning, and the Tsinghua University School of Architecture. Funding is provided by the Paul Sun Fund with additional contributions from the Asian Cultural Council of New York/Geoffrey Yeh Foundation, the MIT China Program, the MIT departments of architecture and planning and Tsinghua University.

Read the text of Professor Jan Wampler's introductory remarks here. (PDF)

Urban Development and Planning in China

The Third Annual Conference of the China Planning Network

Nearly 1000 scholars, students, planners and officials from more than 20 countries gathered in Beijing this summer to address some of the critical issues emerging from the rapid development of urban China.

Organized by the China Planning Network - a group of faculty, students and practitioners based at MIT and Harvard - the conference was a continuation of two previous conferences, held at Harvard in 2004 and at MIT in 2005. The conference series has become a significant way for students, faculty and practitioners from the west to engage with the rapidly changing development scene in China, fulfilling the aim of the China Planning Network to act as a bridge between planning and development communities in China and their U.S.-based colleagues.

The three-day conference focused on the rapid development of China's urban transportation systems; the spatial impacts of regional planning and economic development; ecological cities and sustainability; lessons from American and European real estate markets; and planning education and practice in China, America and Europe.

In conjunction with the conference, the China Planning Network organized a series of events including city tours and seminars with local officials, displays reviewing collaboration in urban planning between China and western countries and an open house for Chinese architecture and planning students to learn more about admission to universities abroad.

The event was co-sponsored by MIT and the Ministry of Construction, PR China. Among the key sponsors from MIT were the Dean's Office of the School of Architecture and Planning, the Department of Architecture, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Center for Real Estate, the International Development and Regional Planning Program and the City Design and Development Program.


1Begin Studio: Meet Chinese Students

Organize Teams

Visit Site
Assignment 1 (Site Clues) out
2Attend China Planning Conference

Evening School Open House
3Opening of 20th Anniversary Beijing Studio Exhibition

4Tour in Beijing: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven
5Work (cont.)
6Work (cont.)
7Presentation and ReviewAssignment 1 (Site Clues) due
8Lecture: Transit Oriented Development, Zhang Ming

Show and Tell Session 1
Assignment 2 (Preliminary Plan) out
9Lecture: History of Beijing and Region, Wu Liangyong
10Work (cont.)
11Presentation and ReviewAssignment 2 part 1 (Design Directions) due
12Lecture: Transport and City Design, Chris Zegras

Show and Tell Session 2
13Lecture: Olympics Planning and Design, Huang Yan
14Work (cont.)
15Leave for Shanxi ProvinceAssignment 2 part 2 (Preliminary Plan) due
16Tour Shanxi: Yungang Grottoes, Huayan Temple, Hanging Monastery

Spend the Evening on Mount Wutai
17Visit Wutai

Travel to Pingyao Walled City
18Visit Pingyao

Return to Beijing in Evening
19Show and Tell Session 3Assignment 3 (Design Development) out
20Lecture: Principles of Chinese Gardens, Juan Du
21Lecture: Jan Wampler
22Work (cont.)
23Presentation and ReviewAssignment 3 (Design Development) due
24Visit Great Wall
25Final PresentationAssignment 4 (Final Presentation) out
26Preparation for Final
27Preparation for Final (cont.)
28Preparation for Final (cont.)
29Presentation and ReviewAssignment 4 (Final Presentation) due


Amazon logo When you click the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book (or other media) from, MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of this purchase and any other purchases you make during that visit. This will not increase the cost of your purchase. Links provided are to the US Amazon site, but you can also support OCW through Amazon sites in other regions. Learn more.

Part I: Chinese Urban History

Amazon logo Clayre, Alasdair. The Heart of the Dragon. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1985. ISBN: 039535336X.

Amazon logo Wright, A. F. "The Cosmology of the Chinese City." In The City in Late Imperial China. Edited by G. W. Skinner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1977, pp. 411-451. ISBN: 0804708924.

Amazon logo Tang, Wenfang, and William L. Parish. Chinese Urban Life under Reform: The Changing Social Contract. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 17-48. ISBN: 0521778654.

Part 2: Urban Design and Planning in Ancient China

Wu, Liangyong. "A Brief History of Ancient Chinese City Planning." Kasseler Schriften Zur Geographie und Planung 38 (1986): 3-12, 50-86, and 92-130.

Amazon logo Golany, Gideon S. Urban Design Ethics in Ancient China . Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001, pp. 43-109. ISBN: 0773474099.

Part 3: Chinese Vernacular Architecture and Garden Design

Amazon logo Liu, Ying, and Adenrele Awotona. Housing Provision and Bottom-up Approaches: Family Case Studies from Africa, Asia, and South America. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1999, pp. 223-312. ISBN: 1840143037.

Amazon logo Tsu, Frances Ya-sing. Landscape Design In Chinese Gardens. New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill Book Company, 1987, pp. 3-11 and 151-191. ISBN: 0070653399.

Part 4: Urban Design and Development in Contemporary China

Rowe, Peter G. "Housing Density, Type, and Urban Life in Contemporary China." Harvard Design Magazine 8 (Summer 1999): 40-45.

Wang, Yaping, and Alan Murie. "The Process of Commercialization of Urban Housing in China." Urban Studies 33, no. 6 (1996): 971-989.

Lubow, Arthur. "The China Syndrome." New York Times Magazine, May 21, 2006.

Part 5: The First Stop: Shanghai

Olds, Kris. "Globalizing Shanghai: the Global Intelligence Corps and the Building of Pudong." Cities 12, no. 3 (1995): 109-123.

Amazon logo Gamble, Jos. Shanghai in Transition. New York, NY: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. ISBN: 0700715711.

Yager, Greg, and Scott Kilbourn. "Lessons from Shanghai Xintiandi: China's Retail Success Story." Urban Land Asia, December 2004, 34-37.

Part 6: The Second Stop: Suzhou

Brown-Gillette, Jane. "Eye of the Dragon." Landscape Architecture 88, no. 1 (1988): 52-80.

Amazon logo Marme, Michael. Suzhou: Where the Goods of All the Provinces Converge. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005, pp. 19-39. ISBN: 0804731128.

Part 7: The Third Stop: Beijing

Amazon logo Liangyong, Wu. "The City of Beijing in Historic Perspective." In Rehabilitating the Old City of Beijing: A Project in the Ju'er Hutong Neighborhood. Vancouver, CA: UBC Press, 1999, pp. 3-15. ISBN: 077480727X.

Zhang, Yan, and Ke Fang. "Politics of Housing Redevelopment in China: The Rise and Fall of the Ju'er Hutong Project in Inner-city Beijing." Journal of Housing and Built Environment 18 (2003): 75-87.

Zhu, Zixuan. "New Exploration into the Conservation and Rehabilitation of Old Cities." Building in China 2, no. 4 (1989): 18-26.

Zhang, Jie. "Informal Construction in Beijing's Old Neighborhoods." Cities 14, no. 2 (1997): 85-94.


The four assignments from the class are presented here.

Assignment 1 - Site Observations, Clues and Criteria (PDF)

Assignment 2 - Strategic Directions (PDF)

Assignment 3 - Section of Form (PDF)

Assignment 4 - Final Presentation: Putting It All Together (PDF)


This section contains documents created from scanned original files, which are inaccessible to screen reader software. A "#" symbol is used to denote such documents.

The work from the final presentation of the studio is presented here. All work is courtesy of the students named and used with permission.

Group A - Liz Nguyen, Marissa Cheng, Peng Liu, Frank Yang Jiang, Neeraj Bhatia(PDF - 2.8 MB)(PDF - 4.0 MB)#
Group B - Alex Lee, Ai Yamamoto, Non Arkaraprasertkuo, Sisi Liang, Jie Wang(PDF - 9.6 MB)(PDF - 8.1 MB)#
Group C - Angela Meehan, Feifei Zhao, Shilpa Mehta, Reilly Rabitaille, Matthew Brownell(PDF - 2.4 MB)(PDF - 1.3 MB)
Group D - Tracy Wharton, Priyanka Shah, Yingying Lu, Christoforos Romanos, Yueyuan Zheng(PDF - 3.5 MB)(PDF - 1.5 MB)
Group E - Shirley Shen, Kirsten Kinzer, Timothy Terway, Gong Zhang, Meredith Judy(PDF - 3.2 MB)(PDF - 3.0 MB)
Group F - Kyuree Kim, Cindy Wu, Albert Wei, Wei Bao, Yu Feng(PDF - 5.1 MB)(PDF - 4.2 MB)

Image Gallery

Images from the studio and the trip to China are presented here. All images are courtesy of Albert Wei and used with permission.



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