Advanced Design Studio: Plattus

Plattus: Beijing

China Studio


Design and Visualization



This studio will be the fourteenth year of the Yale School of Architecture China Studio, and the third year of a new collaboration between Yale and Tsinghua University School of Architecture in Beijing.  With this studio, we are also continuing a projected three-year investigation of urban development and redevelopment in the historic and contemporary Chinese capital city, with a particular emphasis on models of sustainable mixed-use and neighborhood development, in part funded by a grant from the Yale School of Architecture’s Hines Fund.  Over these three years the China Studio will study the impact of preservation, infill and new development on three sites along the historic north-south axis of Beijing, moving from the center outward to the urban periphery.

The first year’s studio focused on a sensitive site immediately adjacent to the Forbidden City, where existing fabric and preservations-based design restrictions severely constrained new development, and the second year’s site was a mainly open superblock between the Third and Fourth Ring Roads, originally cleared for the 1990 Asian Games and later used by the 2008 Beijing Olympics, lying as it does at the southern end of the Olympic Axis.  This year’s site is along the southern extension of the axis, just to the south of the reconstructed Yongding Gate, and so just outside of the historic Ming Dynasty city, and includes an interesting mix of institutional, commercial and residential development from different eras. The site lies on both sides of the axis and encompasses 146 hectares between the Second and Third Ring Roads.  It will be served by a stop on the projected extension of Line 14 of the Beijing Metro system with immediate access to the new Beijing South Railway Station.  The area is already characterized by its association with the garment trade and the local authorities are interested in encouraging the development of a world class fashion district.  Given its size and mixed character, the site presents the challenges and opportunities of thinking critically about the urbanistic significance of the unit of development in contemporary Chinese cities, as well as the sensate relationship of new and existing development.  In addition, students will be asked to consider the changing meanings of Beijing’s historic axis and the relationship of the site to the axis, as well as the potential of the site a model for sustainable urban development at the levels of the district, the neighborhood and the individual project simultaneously.  Projects will therefore encompass both large scale issues of urban infrastructure and ecology, as well as finer grain issues of urban fabric, building typology, local use and image.

As in past studios, Yale students will travel to China, tour the site and other relevant sites and projects in and around Beijing, meet with local planning officials, and, most importantly, collaborate with their counterparts, graduate students at Tsinghua University, to develop preliminary site analysis and design concepts.  This interaction will continue throughout the term via video conferencing, and Tsinghua students and faculty  have been invited to participate in final reviews at Yale.  All students considering participating in the studio should make sure that they have a current passport in their possession, with sufficient space for a Chinese visa.