Habitat Kashgar

Habitat is arguably the most primitive and, at the same time, most futuristic subject for architecture. The word “habitat” provokes at once multiple architectural imaginations: from Unités d’habitation to Habitat 67, from the remotest villages to the greatest metropolises, from ancient human settlements to SpaceX’s vision of the Mars Habitat.

Yet a discussion of habitat always brings us to the question of “dwelling on earth,” as habitat may be traced back to its Latin root habitare, meaning to dwell. If “dwelling” is the perception of “habitat” for mortals, then “habitat” is the perception of “dwelling” for the gods. The meaning of habitat has gone through fundamental evolutions—from the ecological and environmental domain in which humans existed to the physical environment humans created. 

Immediately, further questions are raised: Is it possible to envision new types of habitats—habitat micro, habitat macro; habitat horizontal, habitat vertical; habitat of a people, habitat of different people together; habitat with new infrastructure, habitat with new metabolism? Increasingly, habitats are becoming interlinked, overlapped, pushed against each other, and merged. Ultimately the questions are: How do we better share our habitats together? How do we make our habitats more inclusive, resilient, safe, and sustainable?

The studio will undertake the challenge of designing a series of projects related to the subject of habitat, either as a single-family house, multifamily housing, or as community service programs (a school, a library, or an art center) in Kashgar, the ancient oasis city situated in between the great desert of Taklimakan and snow mountains of the Pamirs. It is a trading center on the historical caravan routes—the old Silk Road—and a key city on the newly evolving Belt and Road.

Students may choose from a series of provided sites in the historical center of Kashgar or in the county of Tashkurghan on the plateau of Pamirs. Departing from research on precedents related to habitat and analyzing problems and potentials of the given sites, students will make conceptual designs in the first two to three weeks and finalize their site selections and program proposals during a field trip to Beijing and Kashgar at the end of September.

Following the studio trip, students will revise and further develop their concepts and designs. Projects will be reviewed in small-scale conceptual models and later in large-scale material studies or detail mockups.


This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Zhang Ke will be in residence Thursday and Friday bi-weekly: August 29 and 30; September 12, 13; October 3, 4, 17, 18, 31, November 1, 14, 15, 21, 22; and for final reviews.

The instructor will also be available via Skype to account for “off week” missed time.

Click here for trip/travel information related to this studio.