Interfacing Chater Garden

Chater Garden (遮打花園) in Hong Kong serves as the point of departure for this  studio’s investigations of Locus as driver for architectural design in the city.

The choice of this site in Hong Kong’s Central is a continuation of an earlier, year long architectural design studio that focused on the same broader area of investigation. This year, students research and analyse the area around the garden which is at once an important office district and the historic center of the city. The studio asks how the interventions into the garden and its surroundings can make the site more responsive to its programmatic needs and civic potential. Students use their reading of the site to develop an architectural prototype that will be tested and refined as a design proposal.

Urban Loopholes

PI:  Ying Zhou


Taking cases from the until-now little-analyzed un-demolished remains of city center neighborhoods in Shanghai, the project, culminating in the book Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Production in Shanghai’s City Center (Birkhäuser, 2017, ISBN 978-3035611045) unpacks the seemingly anarchic and opportunistic urban spatial production system of the contemporary Chinese city to address what has perplexed Western public as well as scholars alike. Going behind the scenes in neighborhoods that increasingly appear like trend quarters in the West, the research divulges how the effortless vibe that is experienced today were imagined, constructed, and then scripted. The constellation of actors, from the expanding global network of multilingual cosmopolites to the dialect-speaking local party officials, form the malleable public-private alliances that are producing the newest forms for urban reuse, creative production, consumption, and heritage protection. Under an institutional framework that remains uniquely Chinese, how the ambiguous property rights and the institutional vestiges from planned economy could harbor an entrepreneurial prowess and creative potential that is a remarkable manifestation of globalization in the context of its changing local institutions reveals the logic behind a ‘China Dream.’ The urban loophole, a concept that the author has developed for the mechanism that has mediated the evolving institutions of the transitional economy through spatial production, serves as a red thread through the cases to corroborate the adaptive governance that expedited the appropriation of global knowhow. Pliable and redundant, the urban loophole offers a means of rethinking the presumed stasis and the necessity of urban resilience in face of globalization’s impact for change. They not only mediate between the persistent coexistence of planned and market economies, but also balance economic efficiency for political stability, sustaining the success of what Harvey called neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics.

Publication: Zhou, Ying. Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Productions in Shanghai’s City Center. Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2017.

Impact: The book was presented at venues in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Zürich, amongst other locales, presenting to  experts and academics as well as a more general public, in both English and Chinese language. The book presentation was also accompanied by an exhibition created to show the research in process.

To impact the existing discourse on urban regeneration projects and the effects of gentrification, with the engagement of the diversity of stakeholders for sustainable inner-city development, and to influence future planning modes for creative city cultivation are part of the objectives of the publication.

The book Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Production in Shanghai’s City Center (Birkhäuser, ISBN 978-3035611045) was named the recipient of the “Publisher’s Accolade for Outstanding Production Value” by the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS).The accolade was part of the 2019 ICAS Book Prize, which was established in 2004 and Dr. Zhou’s book is one of more than 60 books reviewed for the recognition. According to the ICAS website : “This in-depth study describes the strategies, players, and processes of a uniquely Chinese model of urban transformation, inviting the reader to rethink the necessity of urban resilience in the face of globalization’s impact for change.”

Grands Projets: West Kowloon and Lujiazui

Project team:  Ying Zhou , Desmond Choi and the FCL team


The developments of urban mega-projects have been unprecedented in the speed and scale at which they have been conceived and implemented, and none more so than in the rapidly transitioning economies of East Asian cities. Focusing on the cases of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon and Shanghai’s Lujiazui, the research has investigated the conception, design, implementation and implications for these two Grands Projets, as part of an eight-case in-depth research project conducted at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) of the Singapore-ETH Centre. Physical manifestations of the transitioning political economies in which the projects are contexualized, the unpacking of the two cases reveal the potentials for inclusive and adaptable means for future developments of urban mega-projects. The research notably fills a gap in the discourse on spatial production for the two areas and is crucial in showing the specific processes and pathways for their developments.


Zhou, Ying. “Lujiazui Shanghai: Urban Paragon for a Post-Socialist China.” In The Grand Projet: Towards Adaptable and Liveable Urban Megaprojects, edited by Kees Christiaanse, Anna Gasco, and Naomi Hanakata, 105–48. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2019.

Zhou, Ying, and Desmond Choi. “West Kowloon, Hong Kong: A Transport-Oriented Development with Culture.” In The Grand Projet: Towards Adaptable and Liveable Urban Megaprojects, edited by Kees Christiaanse, Anna Gasco, and Naomi Hanakata, 149–98. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2019.


To impact the existing discourse on large-scale urban projects, notably in the megacities of emerging economies and to influence policymaking and planning for prevalent megaprojects so that they could be more sustainable and resilient


Rethinking Edinburgh Place

Studio name: Architectural Design 3

FOCUS Geography Landscape Infrastructure Politics Art Media

WHERE Edinburgh Place [愛丁堡廣場] and its modern era urban ensemble of City Hall [大會堂] in Hong Kong.

RESEARCH & PROPOSITIONS The year 3 students of the WS2017 and SS2018 design studios position their architectural propositions as urban strategies for conserving the historically-important civic corridor and former urban face of Hong Kong, composed around Edinburgh Place, while accommodating the economic and infrastructural pressures prioritized by the SAR’s developmentalist state. The studio research finds that the 2006 land reclamation and northward relocation of the Star Ferry takes away the threshold role City Hall played, both symbolically and physically, alongside the former Star Ferry, on the Victoria Harbour, and as result also diminishes Edinburgh Place’s civic importance. The current plan to demolish the General Post Office (GPO) and the Star Ferry Car Park (SFCP) and replace it with a large-scale commercial podium in the future further dismantles the east-west civic corridor that City Hall, the GPO and the SFCP composes as the urban face of Hong Kong along Victoria Harbor. In response, one of the studio’s projects proposes a densification and partial adaptive reuse of the GPO, which not only preserves the important postal function the GPO plays in Central’s financial district but also accommodates the commercial demands on the prime waterfront property. Another proposes an Ink Art Centre, updating the City Hall ensemble given its newly landlocked site, and spatially re-define Edinburgh Place with a program coming out of the current usage patterns of City Hall. Others propose above-ground connections, crossing Connaught and Lung Wo Roads, using these connections to also house publicly accessible sporting and amenities. Similarly, a proposal for the reuse of the SFCP and its adjacent public spaces facilitates a future connection to the new waterfront piers while also retaining the important historic axial connection across Connaught Road to Statue Square. Together, the projects posit the civic future of Edinburgh Place and its built environment as crucial to the identity of Hong Kong.

Culture-Led Spatial Productions: Case Studies Of And For East Asia

Title of project:  Culture-Led Spatial Productions: Case Studies Of And For East Asia

Project team: PI: Ying Zhou


East Asia’s economic growth in the recent decades is paralleled by a shift in its urban development strategies. With the rapid depletion of historic urban structures and the push for economic transition to a post-industrial, knowledge-based service economy, especially in the context of regional and global competition between cities, municipal authorities are also increasingly promoting developments of ‘culture-led urban regeneration’ projects. In Singapore, for example, a model city for urban governance in Asia, the developmental state’s cultural ambitions, part of the regional competitions between cities, has direct relation to its urban developments. Similarly, in China, where the party-state dominates urban development, the recent ‘museum boom’ seems to project an image of progressive liberalization and global integration to the outside world. New forms of public-private alliances capitalize on the transition economy’s distinctive governance structures and dual land market. They also offer new business plans for cultural enterprise development.

The proposed research is a design research project for understanding better the drivers, agents and value chains for what are called ‘culture-led’ spatial productions that have proliferated in East Asian cities in the last decade.  Choosing contemporary visual art as the cultural industry sector to frame the research, the study of the development of spaces contemporary art reveal how the larger governance structures and political economy impact spatial production. Detailed cases in, i.e. Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, three notably different contexts, spatially and structurally, while at the same time economically competitive regionally, offer insights into the similarities and differences in the pathways and processes for art space developments. At the same time selected case synopsis from Europe and North America offer modes of successful developments that could be compared and contrasted to at a broader scale.

Economists have posited creative industries, a broad and rather fluid category, including the cultural industries, as both the indicator as well as instigator for economic transition from industrial to post-industrial service-based knowledge economy. Given the aspirations for East Asian cities, it is still notable that for most the industrialization process is recent and there is often a unique simultaneity of industrialization and post-industrialization coexisting spatially. Existing studies for culture-led spatial productions have largely been based on experiences in developed countries and their cities, and thus fail to account for the unique and quantitatively paramount phenomenon notably associated with a continental-scaled country like China.

At the same time, this research is not interested in only spaces consumption of the cultural industries, exemplified by China’s ‘museum boom.’ It is also interested also in the spaces for production of culture. The research is also interested in the bottom-up processes for spatial production that innovate and often feed into the top-down processes prevalent under the East Asian developmental state. It is the bottom-up processes for spatial production under transition economy that have notably become appropriated by the state in the mid-2000s to produce “creative industries clusters,” through the “adaptive reuse” of “industrial heritage.” It is thus the constellation of bottom-up and top-down agents and drivers as well as production and consumption side spaces are crucial to the development of what bureaucrats and branders have increasingly called the “contemporary art ecologies,” a term for a robust and “sustainable” value chain that is rooted in the larger economic system.

As consequence, the city is not only the vessel and incubator for the development of these “contemporary art ecologies.” Contribution of the spatial productions for contemporary art conversely also impact the cities and the flows and networks. Issues of gentrification, globalization, socio-spatial polarization, and proposals in the forms of ”Grand Projets” crucially intersect the study.

Anticipated outcomes and outputs:

  • produce publication of the case studies as well as comparative summaries of the different drivers for culture-led developments
  • produce evaluations on the case studies and form guidelines that would facilitate policy makers decision making and white papers

Published outputs:

The related project has resulted in the following publications:

Zhou, Ying. “Building a Discourse: Capturing a Moving Target of Shanghai’s Art Boom – Book Review: Jenny Lin’s Above Sea.” Art Journal 78, no. 3 (Fall 2019): 137–39.

Zhou, Ying. “Looking to New Institutional Models, China’s Cultural Landscape by Mid-Century.” In Looking to New Institutional Models, China’s Cultural Landscape by Mid-Century | 展望新的制度模式:本世纪中叶之前的中国文化景观, edited by Leigh Tanner and Nicole Ching, 17–25. Shanghai 上海: Museum2050, 2018.

Zhou, Ying. “成長中的當代藝術生態,香港 [A Growing Contemporary Art Ecology Hong Kong].” ArtPlus, no. 079 (August 2018): 22–25.

Zhou, Ying. “Herzog & de Meuron’s Latest Arts Venue, Tai Kwun, Opens in Hong Kong.” frieze, June 7, 2018.

Zhou, Ying. “Growing Ecologies of Contemporary Art: Vignettes from Shanghai.” In Critical Landscapes: Art, Space, Politics, edited by Emily Eliza Scott and Kirsten Swenson, 218–35. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2015.

Zhou, Ying. “Global Aspirations and Regional Specialization: Art Stage Sets Bar High in Singapore.” Modern Weekly [代周刊], 2013, 78–79.

Zhou, Ying. “Introduction Asia.” In City as Loft: Adaptive Reuse as a Resource for Sustainable Urban Development, edited by Martina Baum and Kees Christiaanse, 230–32. Zurich: GTA Verlag, 2012.

Processes and Pathways for Urban Developments under Transition Economies

Title of project: Urban Loopholes: Processes and Pathways for Urban Developments under Transition Economies

Project team: PI: Ying Zhou


Continuing from Ying’s dissertation „Urban Loopholes, Cases of Contemporary Urban Transformations Shanghai 1992-2012“ (completed 2015 and book forthcoming 2017), the above-mentioned project, tentatively called „Urban Loopholes: Processes and Pathways for Urban Developments under Transition Economies“ proposes to further build from and develop the sub-themes outlined in the dissertation, including „gentrification with Chinese characteristics,“ „preservation via inhabitation,“ and „planned economy 2.0.“ These processes of urban spatial production have been crucial parts of the „urban loopholes,” mechanisms of urban development, put forth by Ying, which she hypothesized to have eased economic transition, fostered creative industries development abetted urban resilience in face of systemic turbulences. „Urban loopholes” are the physical manifestations of what theorists have termed the „dual market,”„adaptive governance,”„institutional amphibiousness,”and other phenomena symptomatic of China’s economic transition. As such, they are the spatial mechanisms of the „Chinese model” that inflect global aspirations within the local frameworks. Previously having conducted detailed case studies on the transformations in Shanghai’s historic inner-city neighbourhoods that have been resilient in face of structural changes and taken on increasingly international vibes, resembling Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin or Williamsburg in New York, the proposed project will investigate developments in newer, more monofunctional tabula-rasa developments for industry and commerce to understand the recalibration of drivers, agents, networks, urban forms to mediate the market within the planned.

Published outputs:

The related project has resulted in the following publications:

Zhou, Ying. Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Productions in Shanghai’s City Center. Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2017.

Zhou, Ying. “Gentrification with Chinese Characteristics? City Centre Transformations in Shanghai.” In Progress & Prosperity The Chinese City as Global Urban Model, 68–83. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2017.

Zhou, Ying. “Small Scale, Bottom up: Cosmopolitan Linkages Reglobalizing Shanghai’s City Centre.” In Asian Cities: Colonial to Global, edited by Gregory Bracken, 301–26. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015.

Zhou, Ying. “From Progress to Prosperity: Creative Centralities in Shanghai.” FCL Magazine, no. 2, Urban Strategies (May 2014): 82–89.

Zhou, Ying. “上海中心城区:在全球愿景和本土构架之间 [Between Global Aspirations And Local Frameworks: City Center Shanghai].” Urban China 城市中国 56 (2013): 68–73.

Zhou, Ying. “Urban Loopholes: Tactics of Survival and Manifestations of Desires in Damascus.” Critical Planning 17, Resilient Cities (October 2010): 88–107.