Chang`an Axis Project

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Chang’an Axis Project is a unique urban regeneration program. Integrating various expertise of the university, it helps Chang’an, a Chinese industrial town, on its urbanization process through a precise design intervention – constructing a city-scaled public space corridor. Over three years, the project has streamlined a working process from multidisciplinary researches on urban history, economics, policy and physical environment, to various design engagements, including urban planning, urban design, architectural and landscape design. By connecting scholars and designers with officials and the public, the project demonstrates a productive model for knowledge exchange. By helping the government to work simultaneously on the city’s spatial, economic, and political sectors, the project also exemplifies the importance and efficacy of adopting a holistic approach to city development for Chinese urbanism today.

Revolution and Reform: Chinese Architecture 1949-1959 and 1978-2010

Principal Investigator: Tao ZHU
Funding body: Small Project Funding; GRF


This project includes two parts. The first examines the work of the prominent Chinese scholar Liang Sicheng in the fields of architectural historiography, education, design, preservation and city planning, and his constant interactions with Mao Zedong’s frequent social political campaigns during the period of 1949-1959. The second investigates the development of Chinese architecture during the Reform Era of 1978-2010. With the social factors percolating in the background, the research explores a series of themes, such as the way in which Chinese architects engaged in a renewed debate on the National Form vs. Modernism as they started a new pursuit of modernity in the 1980s, their fight against the pastiche of political symbolism and commercialism with imported concepts in the 1990s, and their struggle with the multitude of complex and challenging problems that were generated by the overwhelming speed and dimension of China’s urbanization in this current decade.


It intends to become a comprehensive survey on the history of contemporary Chinese architecture.


  • Tao Zhu, “Building Big, with No Regret: From Beijing’s ‘Ten Great Buildings’ in the 1950s to China’s Mega-projects Today ”, in Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolut i o n (The Harvard Contemporary China Series), ed. Li Jie (Cambridge MA: Harvard Asia Center Publications, 2016), 56-84.
  • Tao Zhu, Liang Sicheng and His Times (Beijing , Guilin: Guangx i Normal University Press, 2014; Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Tao Zhu, “China’s Architecture in the Reform Era 1978-2010,” in A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture 1960-2010, ed. Elie Haddad and David Rifkind (Surrey: Ashgate, 2014), 401-417.
  • Tao Zhu, “Grounding the Leaps: Personal Notes on Writing of China’s Modern Architectural History ”, in Common Ground: A Critical Reader, ed. David Chipperfield, (Venice: Marsilio Editori; New York: Rizzoli, 2012), 209-217.
  • Tao Zhu, “Building Big, with no Regret,” AA Files, 2011, 63, 104-110.
  • Tao Zhu, “Cross the River by Touching the Stones: Chinese Architecture and Political Economy In The Reform Era 1978-2008”, Architectural Design, 2009, 79, 88-93.


My book Liang Sicheng and His Times was ranked # 1 seller in “Architecture” and “Science/Technology” categories in Amazon (China) during the first six months of its release and it has been sold over 40,000 copies so far. It’s been widely covered by China’s academic and mass media, and continues to arouse heated debates both in the architectural and intellectual circles, and among general public. My book chapter “China’s Architecture in the Reform Era 1978-2010,” in A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture 1960-2010 is the first survey on China’s contemporary architecture in English, which greatly helps the international readers understand the history and significance of Chinese architecture and urbanism.

Centre for Chinese Architecture and Urbanism


The Centre focuses on the study of historical Chinese architecture and urban spaces, addressing the culture, social and geographical relevance of tradition for contemporary design. Facing the challenges of accelerating development of urban and rural landscapes in China, the Centre studies traditional architecture, landscape and urban spaces to develop strategies for sustaining architectural, cultural, ecological and community landscapes. Its work includes design, conservation, history and theory, architectural criticism and curatorial research and practice.