Roy Strickland


Urban Design in the Pacific Rim--Beijing


This thesis section served as the prototype for a potential multi-year TCAUP research and design effort addressing cities that are part of the Pacific Rim, a trans-continental region undergoing rapid transformation as part of global economic, social, and environmental changes. The thesis project focused on two sites in Beijing between which students could choose to pursue the research and design questions they generated  in their fall-term thesis proposals. One site was in Daxing near the new Beijing international airport, part of the city’s southward expansion; the second was in Sanlitun located in central Beijing where many of the capital’s embassies are located and will soon be relocated, opening the area to new development.

Originally, the thesis group was to travel to Beijing for site reconnaissance, discussions with a major architecture and engineering firm, and meetings with a Beijing school of architecture and its faculty and students as part of its research. The COVID-19 crisis, however, interrupted these plans. And as the coronavirus spread to the United States, the group was unable to travel to New York City for visits to large-scale urban design projects that would serve as references for design work. That left thesis research to literature review related to urban design and to the history of Chinese cities; site analysis through Web resources; the viewing of narrative films set in Chinese cities; Bluejeans calls with Wilson Rui Qin, a prominent Beijing urban designer; and other activities held in Ann Arbor. As the pandemic worsened in the United States, the section communicated remotely while members self-isolated.

In spite of COVID-19’s challenges, section members addressed their sites’ opportunities as they stretched their architectural capacities into urban design, for them a new discipline. Their success, as small as it may be relative to the current crisis, offers a glimmer of hope.

Beijing Thesis Vignettes by (clockwise from upper left) Emmanuel Cofie, Yaqi Dai, Hengjun Xu, Yetao Jiang, Jiaqi Xin