Ecological Urbanism Field Research Seminar in China (summer course)

This summer field research seminar will offer an overview of ecological urbanism within a Chinese context. Integrating theory with practice and speculation, students will build upon field research to propose design interventions for contemporary Chinese urbanization. The four-credit and four-week long course will run from Monday July 3 until Friday July 28, 2017.

The research seminar will initially be based at the Ecological Urbanism Collaboration (EUC) on the Peking University (PKU) campus in Beijing. A parallel course will be offered at PKU. Travel to other Chinese cities may be required as part of the course, most likely to Haikou in Hainan province (to be confirmed), returning to Beijing for the final phase of the research seminar. The course is open to all students at the Graduate School of Design. Registration is subject to visa restrictions. Students enrolling the course will receive course credit for the Fall 2017 semester.

The course has three overlapping components: Fieldwork; Case studies; and Proposal making.

1. Fieldwork: The course will begin with an introduction to field research methods in preparation for fieldwork to be conducted in collaboration with students from Peking University. Field notes will be documented using notebooks, photography, sketches, video, and other means. Students will be encouraged to think of the implications of their observations, moving between field work and design proposition.

2. Case studies:The four weeks will be punctuated with a series of presentations on recent urban landscape projects in China under the rubric of ecological urbanism. These case studies will be complemented by readings on Chinese urbanism and on ecological urbanism more generally.

3. Proposal making: Building upon fieldwork and case studies, and recognizing their different epistemologies, students will propose a series of interventions for, most likely, the city of Haikou in Hainan province. This speculative component will primarily occupy the final two weeks of the course. The aim is to imagine future scenarios and to develop ideas, concepts, and strategies for future urbanization. The development of speculative design and planning proposals, at several scales, will be based on the research findings and ecological urbanism principles. The proposals will be developed and evaluated in workshops, reviews, and group discussions, led and attended by faculty from the GSD and PKU, and by guest scholars and representatives from the sites that will be investigated.

Seminars will be held throughout the four-week course. The seminars will be filled with lectures, discussions of assigned readings, fieldwork-based exercises, learning how to take notes or record data using various media, analysing data, and sharing thinking on individual projects. The goals will be to learn methods in field research; applying theoretical concepts in making connections between data; using visual information to represent ethnographic insights; and moving from fieldwork to design.

The emphasis of the course is on engagement: with the readings, the sites, and with the discussions. Regular assignments are required:
1. Field notes: Students will submit field notes for regular review and grading.
2. Assignment 1: Students will present their in-progress field notes to the group.
3. Assignment 2: Students will present their design proposals together with a short 300-word reflection on the content.

GRADING (Course credit will be given for the Fall 2017 semester)
1. Class participation (30%)
2. Field notes (30%)
3. Assignment 1 (10%)
4. Assignment 2 (30%)

Summer 2017 course. Student selection was pre-determined in early lottery.