Hyunggyu Kim
Jae Hyun Kim

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 12-2016




architecture, shenzhen, activist, urban, education, international, framework, local, sustainable




Architectural History and Criticism | Architectural Technology | Cultural Resource Management and Policy Analysis | Environmental Design | Historic Preservation and Conservation | Other Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning


There is a gap between being an architecture student in western countries and working as an architect in underrepresented communities. Architect Teddy Cruz defines the role of an activist architect as "expanded mode of practice", and the task of "deigning the protocols or the interfaces between communities and spaces".

This thesis contends that architecture schools need to continue to embrace the widely-accepted norm of studios studying abroad and working in an international studio. Current study abroad programs tend to skew towards being touristic field trips and there is not a curriculum or programmatic investment in cultivating relationships between the visiting students, local schools, and the local people. Helping the local communities through sustainable architecture remains an afterthought.

The Shenzhen Institute of Building Research hosted a building competition for low-carbon city development. The three participating research universities were Syracuse University, UC Berkeley, and TU Delft. The intended development site for the project is Pingdi, a small district in Shenzhen, China. This competition focuses primarily on the technical aspects of low-carbon sustainable development and not on building something useful and meaningful to the local inhabitants. The offical plan is to demolish the existing residential Hakka community along with other urban villages displacing local migrant workers. Despite the official declaration encouraging local participation, there was little to no local involvement and the competition participants were lacking the necessary information to build these projects and to fully understand the stakes of this type of sustainable building project.

Sustainable architectural design should not just be limited to the technical it must also be grounded in the site. Architects need to understand the contexts generated by a multitude of economic, political, social, and cultural factors have to be reflected upon and incorporated into a series of design phases.

This is not just a building, but a framework for all the different users; students (of architecture, engineering, citizenship and public affairs), local people (residents, and workers), industrial stakeholders where interactions among users are encouraged. Recognizing the valuable contributions from local inhabitants and business owners and including these people as prominent members of low-carbon sustainable development projects results in better design.


local input

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