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PennDesign in China: Two-Year Project on Cities and ‘Durations’ Exhibition Awarded Funding
September 23, 2015
PennDesign Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Chair and Professor of Landscape and Regional Design Richard Weller, Professor of Architecture Ali Rahim, and Chair and Associate Professor of Historic Preservation Randall Mason are leading a two-year initiative for joint research and engagement with leading academics and practitioners from institutions in some of the fastest-growing cities in China.
The project began in Beijing last March, when PennDesign hosted representatives of 23 leading Chinese universities in a roundtable discussion of challenges facing Chinese cities and the role that design can play in achieving a higher quality of life. The roundtable, which was entitled Coordinates, provided key input for PennDesign's grant from the China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF), which was awarded to the School on September 10.
"We were delighted to discover the enthusiasm among our Chinese colleagues for this initiative," said Dean Taylor. "As Chinese artists and designers become more prominent globally, there is much to learn from idea exchange."
PennDesign also received a second grant award, for DURATIONS: An Investigation on Architecture Practice in China, an exhibit designed and curated by Professor Rahim, together with Associate Professor of Urban Design Stefan Al. The exhibit, which was installed at the PennWharton China Center (PWCC), Beijing, as part of a weeklong series of events celebrating Penn’s engagement in China, included 35 projects in China by 24 architecture firms from across China, Europe, and the US. Ninety-one architects and architect-educators participated in a symposia held at PWCC.
The exhibit featured a section on the Chinese architecture scholars who came to study design at Penn in the early decades of the 20th century, among them Liang Sicheng and Lin Hui Yin, who returned to China to establish the county's earliest university architecture programs.
The two-year project will address an overarching question regarding the future of cities: "How can Chinese cities more effectively maximize the benefits and reduce the social and environmental costs of accelerated modernity?" The questions will be explored in four streams of activities, which will address conservation of buildings, districts, and landscapes of China; the role of art and design in expressing culture and identity; the use of "intelligent" urban systems to improve quality of life; and the ways in which regional and mega-regional thinking can integrate landscapes and cities for more harmonious living.
Richard Weller, the Martin and Margie Meyerson Professor of Urbanism and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at PennDesign, said “With its internal culture of interdisciplinarity, its well-established relationships with other Penn schools, and its long-standing relationships with China’s best universities, PennDesign is uniquely positioned to begin to address the academic, creative and practical challenges these large questions pose.”
The CREF awards represent the latest milestone in Penn’s engagement with China following the March 2015 launch of the Penn Wharton China Center, which provides support for research, academic and student exchanges and for broad partnerships with China, as well as events and symposia on important academic topics for students, faculty and alumni.