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Fri, Nov 20/09 – 9:30am to Sat, Nov 21/09 – 9:30am

An interdisciplinary workshop on the political economy of architecture and urbanism in contemporary China

November 20-21, 2009

Munk Centre for International Studies

University of Toronto

1 Devonshire Place

To register for this workshop please contact:

Jasmine Jin, Workshop Coordinator


10:00-1:00 Circus


Raoyun BAO, University of Toronto

Xuefei REN, Michigan State University


Jianfei ZHU, University of Melbourne


Ute LEHER, York University

Eric CAZDYN, University of Toronto

2:30-5:30 Conspiracy


Akbar ABBAS, UC Irvine


Tong LAM, University of Toronto



Rodolphe EL-KHOURY, University of Toronto

Kajri JAIN, University of Toronto


10:00-1:00 Underpass


MENG Yue, University of Toronto

WANG Ban, Stanford University

Laurent GUTTIEREZ, MAP Office HK

Adrian BLACKWELL, University of Toronto


Thomas LAHUSEN, University of Toronto

Mary Louise LOBSINGER, University of Toronto

2:30-3:45 Roundtable Discussion

Sponsored By:

The Asian Institute

Cities Centre

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

University of Toronto Mississauga

Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library


Adrian Blackwell

Tong Lam


This workshop will focus on the role of architecture and urbanism in the production of ideology within contemporary China. Over the past 15 years Chinese cities have grown at unprecedented speeds. This change has been a substantial driver of the contemporary Chinese economy, but at the same time it has been an important indicator to all Chinese citizens that the country is being remade. Since the early 1990s urban development has acted as a foundation for a broader cultural turn within Chinese society, from a simple focus on low cost commodity production and high technology development, towards creative and cultural industries. Nowhere was this imbrication more evident than at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the incredible cultural and historical spectacle designed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou, was played out within the new national stadium, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and DeMeuron. However the Olympic stadium and its twin, the National Aquatic Center, by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, PTW Architects and Ove Arup Pty Ltd, are just two of a growing number of mega-projects that are being used to mark the important spaces of contemporary Chinese culture. This workshop will examine the underlying political and economic conditions that gave rise to these and other architectural and urban spectacles, and how they are in turn producing new social relationship and political order in China today.


Ackbar ABBAS is Chair and Professor of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. His publications include Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (University of Minnesota Press, 1997), Internationalizing Cultural Studies, co-edited with John Erni (Blackwell, 2005), Chen Danqing: Painting After Tiananmen,(University of Hong Kong, 1995), The Provocation of Jean Baudrillard, edited (Twilight Books, 1990). He is also the book series editor (with Wimal Dissanayake) of The New Hong Kong Cinema, (University of Hong Kong Press, 2002-present), and the special issue editor (with Wu Hung), Hong Kong 1997: the Place and the Formula, Public Culture, May 1997.

Ruoyun BAO is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto and the Department of Humanities at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her research interests cover a wide variety of contemporary Chinese media and popular cultural forms. She is keen on exploring the intersections of cultural policy, cultural production and cultural politics in China. Currently, she is writing a book on Chinese television dramas, seeking to investigate a number of largely overlooked drama genres that are crucial to a fuller understanding of commercial media as well as political and cultural dynamics in China. She co-edited a book entitled TV Drama in China (Hong Kong University Press, 2009) and has authored a number of articles on Chinese television.

Adrian BLACKWELL is a visual artist, architectural and urban designer whose work focuses on the question of social and economic equality within capitalist urbanization. His art work has been exhibited at artist-run centers and museums across Canada, and in China. In 2005 he co-edited Unboxed: Engagements in Social Space with Jen Budney. His writing about Chinese urbanization has been published in Urban China, Architecture and Ideas, and Networked Cultures. In 2007 he won the Nathan Phillips Square design competition in collaboration with PLANT Architect Inc., Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners, and Peter Lindsay Schaudt and in the summer of 2009 he constructed a Garden for the International Garden Festival in Metis, Quebec in collaboration with Jane Hutton. He is a member of the Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry and the editorial collective of SCAPEGOAT: Architecture/ Landscape/ Political Economy. He has taught architecture and Urban Design at the University of Toronto since 1997 and has been a visiting professor at Chongqing University and the University of Michigan.

Anne-Marie BROUDEHOUX is an Associate Professor at the School of Design of the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). She received her doctoral degree in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley in 2002. She is the author of The Making and Selling of Post-Mao Beijing (Routledge, 2004), which received the International Planning History Society book prize in 2006.  Her main research interests focus on the political economy of urban image construction, especially in the context of emerging economies hosting mega-events. She has published several articles about the urban transformations that preceded the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and is now beginning a new research project on pre-Olympic Rio de Janeiro.

Yung Ho CHANG, AIA, is currently the Principal Architect at Atelier Feichang Jianzhu, a Professor and Head of the Architecture Department at MIT, as well as a Professor and Founding Head of Peking University’s Graduate Center of Architecture. Originally from Beijing, Chang received a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. He has been practicing in China since 1992 and established Atelier Feichang Jianzhu (FCJZ) in 1993. He has won a number of prizes, such as First Place in the Shinkenchiku Residential Design Competition in 1987, a Progressive Architecture Citation Award in 1996, the 2000 UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts, and the Academy Award in Architecture from American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006. He has published seven books and monographs so far, including one in English/French entitled Yung Ho Chang / Atelier Feichang Jianzhu: A Chinese Practice and one in Italian entitled Yung Ho Chang:Luce chiara, camera oscura. He has participated in many international exhibitions of art and architecture, including 1999 Street Theater, Apex Art, New York; 2002 Kenzo Tange Exhibition, Harvard University Graduate School of Design; 2003 Camera, Museum of Modern Art of City of Paris with Wang Jianwei, Yang Fudong; 2004 Work of Seung H-Sang, Yung Ho Chang, Gallery MA, Tokyo; four times(2000 /2002/2003/2005)in the Venice Biennale since 2000; 2007 Develop- Architecture of Yung Ho Chang / Atelier FCJZ, MIT, Cambridge; 2008 -Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He has taught at various architecture schools in the USA and China; he was the Kenzo Tange Chair Professor at Harvard in 2002 and the Eliel Saarinen Chair Professor at Michigan in 2004.

Laurent GUTIERREZ is an Associate Professor at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University where he leads the Environment and Interior Design discipline and the Master of Strategic Design as well as Innovation Design Management (IDM/MBA). He is also the co-director of SD SPACE LAB.  As well, he and Valérie Portefaix founded the Hong Kong based MAP Office, which is an interdisciplinary design and research platform. Projects by Gutierrez and Portefaix focus on territorial strategies of global spaces, involving a critical analysis of spatial and temporal anomalies and documentation of the ways in which human beings subvert and appropriate spaces for their own uses. Gutierrez is currently doing a PhD on the “Processes of Modernization and Urbanization in China focusing on the Pearl River Delta region”.

Tong LAM received his PhD in History from the University of Chicago (2003) and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His current research examines the rise of modern technologies of government and the politics of knowledge in the colonial and semicolonial contexts. His book manuscript, Seeking Facts from Truth: Social Surveys and the Making of the Chinese Nation (under review), is a study of the emergence of “the social” as a field of knowledge and practice in China during the turn of the twentieth century. He has also written articles on nationalism and the emerging neoliberal order in post-socialist China. He has recently started working on his second book project, which is a critical study of the colonial aspirations of late Qing China and the sentiments of imperial nostalgia in contemporary China.

MENG Yue is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. She is interested in Chinese cultural history, in particular in the urban culture, as well as in literature and film. She is the author of Shanghai and Edges of Empires (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), Culture in three Keys: Home, History, Humanity (in Chinese, People’s Literature Press, 2006), Breaking the Surface of History: Women Writers in Modern China: 1917-1949 (in Chinese, co-authored, Taipei: China Times, 1993) and History and Narrative (Shanxi renmin Press, 1992), amongst others.

Matthias PAUWELS is a co-founder of BAVO, which is an independent research office focused on the political dimension of art, architecture and planning. BAVO is a co-operation between Gideon Boie (°Brugge, 1975) and Matthias Pauwels (°Brugge, 1975), both of whom studied architecture (Sint Lucas Gent) and philosophy (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam). Both conducted for some years research at the Theory Department of the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Recent research focused on creative city development and practices of embedded cultural activism. BAVO's explicit mission is to enhance public debate by means of publications, symposia and interventions. Recent publications include: Cultural Activism Today. The Art of Over-identification (Episode Publishers, 2007) and Urban Politics Now. Re-imagining Democracy in the Neoliberal City (NAi Publishers, 2007).

Xuefei REN received her M.A. in Urban Planning from Tokyo Metropolitan University (2001) and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago (2007). Her main research areas are urban sociology, urban politics and governance, social change, globalization and state transformations, sociology of the built environment, and quantitative and qualitative methods. Currently she is working on several projects including transnational architectural production and global city formation, urban governance and citizenship rights in cities in the global South, and the geography and temporality of the global art market. She has published in City and Community, Journal of Urban Affairs, City, and Built Environment, among other journals. Her book manuscript Building Globalization: Transnational Architectural Production in Urban China is under the final stages of review at the University of Chicago Press. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. 

WANG Ban is William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies at Stanford University. He received PhD in comparative literature at UCLA. In addition to his research on Chinese and comparative literature, he has written on English and French literatures, psychoanalysis, international politics, and cinema. He has been a recipient of research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. He taught at Beijing Foreign Studies University, SUNY-Stony Brook, Harvard University, and Rutgers University before he came to Stanford. His current project is tentatively entitled China and the World: Geopolitics, Aesthetics, and Cosmopolitanism. His research interests include modern Chinese literature and film, comparative literature (East and West), aesthetics, intellectual History, psychoanalysis, transnational politics and culture.

Jianfei ZHU, BArch (Tianjin) and PhD (Bartlett/UCL), is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture Building & Planning at the University of Melbourne. Through research and teaching, he explores theoretical perspectives on China especially the relationship between architecture and political culture. He is the author of ‘Criticality in between China and the West’ (2005), Chinese Spatial Strategies: Imperial Beijing 1420-1911 (Routledge, 2004), and Architecture of Modern China: A Historical Critique (Routledge, 2009).



Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

Rodolphe EL-KHOURY

Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto; Partner, Khoury Levit Fong Design Firm

Kajri JAIN

Assistant Professor, Department of Fine Art, University of Toronto, and Centre for Visual and Media Culture, University of Toronto Mississauga


Distinguished Professor in Eurasian Cultural History, Department of History and Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto


Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University


Associate Professor, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto