De/constructing Cultural Tourism – Ke Zhan (Traveler’s Rest Stop) Case Study

The studio will take on the topic of cultural tourism in the context of China’s westward expansion related to its Belt and Road project, as well as questioning the relationship between cultural production (architecture) and cultural consumption (tourism). 
Many countries have seen an increase in domestic tourism as a result of the global pandemic triggering domestic lockdowns, forcing travelers to stay within national borders. Part of China’s recently unveiled five-year plan makes explicit the desire to deepen its international cultural links with countries along the Belt and Road network. New projects, especially targeted at cultural tourism sites seek to revive parts of the ancient Silk Road to strengthen China’s cultural exchanges abroad, support trade connections, as well as generating revenue for communities along its western frontier of less developed cities.
This studio will be looking specifically at the tourism rail connection between Xi’an to the city of Dunhuang, located in Northwestern Gansu Province. The city’s historical significance dates back to the Sui and Tang dynasties when it served as a main stop, commercial hub and gateway linking ancient china and the rest of the world. Its strategic location meant that it sat at the intersection of all three main silk routes (north, central and south) connecting India to Mongolia, and the northern Chinese plains and the ancient capitals of Chang’an, known today as Xi’an.  
The studio will delve into the topics of cultural tourism, related to John Ruskin’s formative influence on shaping contemporary debates in tourism studies, the impact of heritage tourism, modern forms of secular pilgrimage and the question of cultural identity as a commoditized experience. The notion of the tourist versus the traveler, a notion explored in Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky provides another lens for the studio to investigate the relationships between architecture and the construction of the “tourist gaze”.  

Students will take on a speculative project wherein they will be asked to design a traveler’s rest stop (ke zhan, historically a tavern or inn) along the railway linking Xi’an and Dunhuang.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule. 

Rosanna Hu will be in residence on the following days: September 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17.

Lyndon Neri will be in residence Thursday and Friday on the following days: November 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19; December 2, 3; and for final reviews. 

The instructors will also hold class via Zoom on the following Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7pm to 11pm ET: September 22, 23, 29, 30; October 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28.