Real Estate and City Making in China

Real estate has increasingly become a compelling force in the process of city making, one uniquely capable of leading and guiding multiple steps in the construct of vital urbanism: from conceiving an idea to constructing complex structures; from sourcing funding to creating master-planned communities; and from negotiating design forms to implementing urban public realms. A country like China is at once experiencing rapid urbanization while undergoing unprecedented transformation in the mechanism of city making: the forces of real estate and the shifting roles played by public and private sectors are constantly challenging conventional city building models, while defining and redefining their positions in the production of the built environment. 

This course, conducted as a research seminar, focuses on the interdependence between real estate and city making. It addresses both theoretical and empirical investigations on the concepts and paradigms that have shaped and are still shaping real estate practices and their impact on contemporary Chinese cities. It analyzes emergent real estate and urban development strategies, their respective financing structures, underlying domain expertise and organizational hierarchy. Students will work independently and in teams on selected themes to identify critical forces in real estate development and investment: how key real estate players, domestic or international, have formed their central business strategies, interacted with capital markets, and participated in the city-form process to facilitate or drive the formation of the built environment; and how emergent private sector leaders are integrating human capital, financial capital, and design capital to reshape the design, form, and composition of China’s urban centers. With the investigative research framework set at the beginning of the semester, students will proceed to examine the city making process through the lens of real estate, in parallel with readings and class discussions, to anticipate the trajectory for contemporary real estate development, investment, and city making in China.