Review | University of Virginia and South China University of Technology Joint Urban Research Workshop
time: 2018-07-09

“South China University of Technology International Course” Funded project

The Chinese Cosmopolitan City

Baohanzhi Street,Dengfeng Village,Guangzhou  



From June 12th to 22nd, 2018, Professor Shiqiao Li and Assistant Professor Esther Lorenz at the University Of Virginia School Of Architecture visited South China University of Technology to host the joint urban research workshop with the theme of “The Chinese Cosmopolitan City”. Fourteen students from the University Of Virginia School Of Architecture (UVA Architecture) in the United States and students from the School of Architecture at South China University of Technology (SCUT) collaborated on the research work and achieved gratifying results.

This joint workshop examined how Chinese cities respond spatially to their increasing multicultural realities. After three decades of rapid development, the Chinese city is gradually transformed by global flows of labor, goods, finance, and innovations. In particular, the influx of foreign nationals – for short and long term stays – is challenging the Chinese city to take broader perspectives, and make urban modifications that accommodate this change. Guangzhou is a representative of the globalization of Chinese cities. It has been leading the country for a long time in terms of the large number of foreign trade and foreign residents in the city. This workshop aimed at documenting Guangzhou’s urban change, analyzing architectural and urban developments, and understanding cultural encounters in the context of global economic transformation.

The surveys and records of Chinese and U.S. students on Guangzhou were conducted on the following four topics: Society, Spirituality, Economy, and Domesticity. The main survey sites wereXiaobei, Sanyuanli, Xianxian Mosque,Shishi Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Shameen. In the on-site investigation, we emphasized on the following four key parts in Guangzhou: social integration under different cultural backgrounds, organization and construction of spiritual space, exchange of Chinese and foreign merchandise trade, and family life of foreigners in Guangzhou. It was targeted to generate a preliminary discussion and analysis of globalization of Guangzhou based on the social surveys and information records and develop a further understanding of the diversified development of the city.

Achievements and Prospects

On June 22, 2018, the results of the workshop were presented at the Red Building of Architecture. The results were consisted of two parts – first was scroll designs by the UVA students, and second was a joint study on the globalization of Guangzhou by both UVA and SCUT students. Professor Shiqiao Li and Assistant Professor Esther Lorenz at the UVA Architecture, Professor Changxin Peng, Professor Miaoxi Zhao, Dr.Jinghuan He of SCUT Architecture, and Associate Professor Tianjie Zhang ofTianjin University School of Architecture participated in the final review.

Scroll Design

UVA students reporting on the scroll design

The design jurors reviewing the scroll design


The UVA students reflected their observations and understanding on the Chinese culture as it responds to foreign influences, demonstrating deep appreciation of the Chinese culture. They used a variety of materials and forms to design their scrolls. The design jurors spoke highly of the students' keen sense of observation and innovative design thinking, and the diversity of design strategies.

Urban Research

After ten days of work, the students of the two universities had conducted in-depth investigations into the lives of foreigners in the city of Guangzhou and accumulated a wealth of research materials. Through the discussion and analysis of the materials, students were able to make tentative conclusions that help them understand the fast changing process of globalization in Guangzhou.

Students reporting on urban research

The design jurors reviewing urban research

Professor Shiqiao Li conducting discussion on urban research


Professor Shiqiao Li and Assistant Professor Esther Lorenz, as well as other professors summarized the research conducted by this workshop, and suggested future trajectories of research. The exchange of perspectives coming from different academic and cultural viewpoints resulted in a heated debate on the differences between the research results of UVA and SCUT students; this was an extremely beneficial process.

The workshop of the University of Virginia and South China University of Technology on "the Chinese Cosmopolitan City" has come to a successful conclusion. During the ten-day joint work, the students have gained tremendously from communicating with each other, deepening the understanding of research methodologies, and broadening the appreciation of Guangzhou’s globalization. We hope this workshop not only inspired students’ enthusiasm for urban studies, but also ignited the enthusiasm for the study of the modern city of Guangzhou under the background of globalization.