Category Archives: Studio Project

Tsinghua Final Presentations

One of the benefits of our studio was that we had an amazing ratio of teachers to students, almost one teacher for every two students.  One of the downsides of our studio was that we had a ratio of teachers to students, almost one teacher for every two students.  A little contradictory, but it was so great to be able to get feedback on our designs from so many people who have so much experience in architecture, but trying to please them all became a difficult, almost impossible task.  This did not only relate to our designs, but also scheduling our final review.  All of the teachers wanted to be able to attend, but they all had very different, and very demanding schedules.  As a solution, we had a “preliminary” final review for the head of our studio the last week of May, and then a “final” final review the first week of June. With that said, we had only started the individual design of our buildings a few days prior to our holiday break, so the extra presentation seemed to cut out some much-needed design time.  Despite the time crunch of five weeks from start of design until the “final” final presentation, there were many very successful projects.  Here are a few shots of everyone and their layout boards at the “final” final presentation.

Ignacio (Spain)

John (USA)

Summer (Canada)

Stephanie (Indonesia)

Scott (USA)

Jasmin (Australia)

Michelle (New Zealand)

Irwin (Indonesia)

Jason (Canada)

Jorge (Spain)

Diana (Columbia)

Ertong Master Plan – Midterm Review

Luckily my group and I exchanged all of our files after the midterm review, so when my hard drive died, I still had a copy of most (not all but most) of my work for the semester.  There was a quite a large jury present for our review including our five professors (some constant and some visiting): Zhang Yue (Tsinghua), Zou Tao (Tsinghua), Zhang Lingyun (Herzog + Partner), George Kunihiro (Hong Kong University), and Odilo Schoch (ETH Zürich).  There were also a few guest critics from within Tsinghua including former Roger Williams professor Ron Henderson.  Somehow with only five group presentations, the review still lasted a little over 5 hours.  As has been the case for most of the semester, we gave our presentations via Powerpoint on a large projector screen within our studio space.  This is a little bit different from what we are used to.  Back at Roger Williams, and most of the educational experiences I have had up to this point, there is more of a focus on physical panel layout presentations than digital Powerpoint presentations, but both are effective in their own way.

The requirements for the review included a master plan of the entire proposed Ertong Housing Development, in addition to a more focused look at one of the four zones (A, B, C, or D) within the site boundaries.  The requirements for the smaller section included a physical model, process work, site plan, ground floor plans of any building within your chosen area, site sections, and perspectives.  Our group decided to focus on “Site B,” because within our scheme, there was a nice mix of different building uses in this particular section.  Within our master plan, this area included small office buildings, restaurants, one of our two “urban cores” or public gathering spaces, green spaces, and residential apartments utilizing both new and existing structures.

Here are a few pictures from our class the Thursday before our review.  You can tell that we still had a few days of working time left because there are a lot of smiles on everyone’s face and not a lot of stress showing yet.  Pictures shown on Monday morning would not have been so pleasant.

Summer starting to build our Site B model

Elton using the foam cutter for his groups model

Diana and Jorge hard at work

Group 2 (Kitty, Stephanie, and Scott)

Group 3 (Jasmin, Michelle, and Juliana)

Group 4 (Irwan and Jason) and Professor Zou Tao

Juliana, Nacho, Jorge, and Professor George Kunihiro

Our Group - Everyone is ready to celebrate after some long days

Here are a view images from our project.  The layout, planning, and formal design was mostly influenced by the chinese building code requirement, that each residential unit must receive two hours of sunlight everyday.  This restricts your design choices forcing you do either narrow single loaded, North-South oriented buildings or double loaded East-West oriented buildings.  North-South oriented buildings are set up well to provide natural heating during the harsh chinese winter so we tried to orient many of our building to fit this concept.  The building code requirement made it very difficult to achieve to desired occupancy/density that the professors set as a target at the beginning of the semester, as you usually had single loaded corridors to ensure the proper daylighting.  The chinese building code also changes significantly once a building is greater than nine stories, so we were not allowed to build any new structures higher than that.

New Residential Development - Section cut at Noon on the Winter solstice

One of our main strategies was to use the bottom two floors as non-residential spaces (commercial, retail, parking, public use).  This way when designing for the worst case scenario of the winter solstice at noon midday (when the sun is at its lowest angle – approximately 26 degrees in Beijing), you only have to satisfy seven floors of the daylighting requirement as opposed to nine because this only applies to residential spaces.  We also found if you shift each floor to the South just slightly, you can increase the amount of sunlight getting over the top of your building, allowing you to place your new building closer, and thus maximizing your density.  We are not quite sure how this would work out structurally at this point, but as a concept it helped get our potential residents number in the right area.

Section Cut thru Existing Residential Structure, Commercial Space, and Urban Hub

Perspective from the New Residential Structure looking at the Urban Hub

Perspective from an Existing Hospital that we converted into a Social building where local residents can find and/or post job opportunities and training

Ground Floor Retail between the new Residential Structures leading to the pedestrian bridge and the urban hub

At the Southeast corner of Site B, looking at small offices buildings and restaurants

For the last few weeks of the semester, our task moving forward will be to select one of the buildings within our focus site, and further design the building according to green strategies we have discussed and researched.  Professor Herzog will be arriving on May 16th, and we will have a quick presentation to show him our urban planning concept in addition to a quick review of our progress on our individual business.

Big Trouble in Little China

After a long week of studio work completing the master plan portion of the Ertong Housing Development, we had our midterm review Monday May 18th.  This was followed by a Chinese language midterm on Tuesday and another week long work shop with Odilo Schoch studying design strategy, building technology, and building simulation.  The workshop concluded with a review Friday morning with some of Professor Schoch’s colleagues who are currently living and working in Beijing.  Everything was going fine until I went to sleep Thursday night and woke up to find that my computer was frozen and would not turn on.  After consulting a few students and friends, we confirmed that my hard drive had crashed and I could not recover any of my files.  Fortunately, I had everything backed-up as of February, so I lost a lot of work, but also managed to retain a lot of it as well. 

Anyway…it has taken some time to get my computer set up again over here, but it is finally fixed up and ready to go.  The moral of the story, anyone reading this post, stop what you are doing and back-up your work, especially if you are in China or any other foreign country as it is NOT a fun thing to deal with!

Review #1

We had our first studio review today.  Each group (5 in total) was supposed to present their master plan for the Ertong site including research, design theory, diagrams, site plan, sections, and any perspectives.  Just like back home, this meant we had some late nights this week trying to get everything finished up.  The neighborhood that is adjacent to the campus (Wudaokou) has a lot of foreign amenities including a pizza place and even subway in case you crave a $5 foot long (30 rmb foot long doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). For dinner, we ordered a few large pizzas from Pyro Pizza (delivered by bicycle….China), a little bit of comfort food for the foreigners on a busy night goes a long way. 

The group dynamics are pretty funny when you start to integrate all the different nationalities.  Even though my group members are spanish and chinese, I lucked out that they both speak english well. I like to pretend that I can speak some spanish too, so our group communication has no problems.  Other groups are having a little bit of a challenge, like a group with a Columbian (Diana), a guy from Spain (Jorge), and a guy from Hong Kong (Elton).  Of course Diana and Jorge, who speak spanish can communicate quite easily, but the look Elton gives when they REALLY start speaking spanish is priceless.  I think it’s similar to the look I give locals when they speak chinese to me…    

Jorge (Spain) and Diana (Columbia)


Jasmin (Australia), Juliana (United States), Michelle (New Zealand)


Summer (Chinese-Canadian, against the back wall), Me, and Nacho (Spain)

Studio space with all the group site analysis pinned up

Michelle, Elton (Hong Kong), Diana, and Jorge

Our jury consisted of four of our professors, and was more laid back than we had anticipated.   Overall, the presentations went very well and the professors were pleased with everyone’s progress.  From here, we will focus in on a smaller portion of our master plan, and develop the site more in detail.  For our next review, we will have some local professionals, in addition to professor Herzog who will be joining us for the rest of the semester after that.

Ertong: Site D

As I mentioned, we were put into groups of three to focus in on a portion of the site (Ertong: Site D).  I am in a group with Summer, a Chinese Canadian who is fluent in Chinese, and Nacho, who also speaks a good amount of Chinese from Spain. 

West Side of Site D

We began the day by walking around the West side of the site which consisted of single-story abandoned masonry buildings.  Once we got to the North side, we came across steel workers who had rented out one of the abandoned buildings.  They did a lot of their work outside and used the building mostly for storage of materials.  

Steel Workers on North Side of Site D

Once we made it down to the center of the site, we came across a low-income housing area.  We met a family of four who was willing to let us interview them at the front door of their home.  Summer conducted the interview in Chinese and then translated for Nacho and I.  Their home consisted of a single room (approximately 12 m^2) with a bed, coal burning oven, a tv, two book shelves, and a small desk for the children to work at.  They had a small propane tank hooked up to a hot plate that they kept outside.  They bring it inside when it is too cold to cook outside, but most of the time leave it adjacent to their front door.  We told them that we were students at Tsinghua and were working on a project to develop the Ertong factory area, and what improvements we could make if any?  The wife/mother informed us that all of the inhabitants of this area were migrants from the North part of China.  The layout of the housing is packed very tightly and sealed with a high brick wall that only allows access from the East.  This makes it hard to get to the main streets to utilize public transportation.  They would rather work within the community (sustaining their current situation) than spending the extra time and money to use public transportation and get a better job.  The public restrooms are located down the street in addition to the water sources for showering and washing clothes.  The only suggestion she gave to improve their daily lives was to provide a place for their children to play.   There are three larger mixed-use buildings adjacent to their housing.  While we were interviewing the family, there were a few close calls with kids running out into the street.  Hopefully we can come up with a solution to improve their living situation and make it a better/safer place for their family.

Low-Income Housing

Chinese Family Living in Ertong Site D

Mixed Use Adjacent to Low-Income Housing