Chu, Cecilia 朱慰先
BAA (Ryerson); MA (PolyU); MSc (HKU); PhD (UC Berkeley)

Cecilia L. Chu is Assistant Professor in the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, where she teaches urban theory, urban design and architectural and landscape history. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a professional designer in Canada and Hong Kong and research consultant for several NGOs focusing on urban renewal and conservation strategies. She is a founding member and current president of DOCOMOMO Hong Kong Chapter, an executive board member of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), and an editorial board member of Journal for the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, and Surveying and the Built Environment. Dr. Chu is a recipient of two major research grants awarded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. Her articles have been published in leading academic journals, including Journal of Architecture, Journal of Historical Geography, Urban Studies, Habitat International, Planning Perspectives, Geoforum, Design Issues, and Architectural Theory Review, amongst others. She is currently completing a monograph, entitled Colonial Urban Development in Hong Kong: Speculative Housing and Segregation in the City (under contract with Routledge, to be published in its Planning, History and Environment Series in 2019). She is also co-editing a book that examines emergent forms and norms of the built environment amidst escalating property speculation around the world in the 21st century.

Recent Publications

Chu, Cecilia L. Colonial Urban Development in Hong Kong: Speculative Housing and Segregation in the City (under contract with Routledge, to be published in its Planning, History and Environment Series, 2019).

Chu, Cecilia L. “The Afterlives of Modern Housing.” In Routledge Companion to Contemporary Architectural History, edited by Duanfang Lu. London; New York: Routledge (in press, to be published in 2019).

Chu, Cecilia L. “‘Placing ‘Asia’ against the ‘West’: Occidentalism and the Production of Architectural Images in Shanghai and Hong Kong.” Architectural Theory Review (in press, to be published in December 2018).

Tang, Dorothy and Cecilia Chu. “Infrastructure Imagination: Charting Hong Kong’s Futures through Construction Photography.” HKIA Journal 74 (2018): 118-122.

Chu, Cecilia L. “The Propensity of Things: The Portuguese Calcada and Its Historicity.” Current Anthropology 59, 4 (2018): 388-389.

Chu, Cecilia L. and Zhiyong Liang. “建构理想的家居:20世纪初期中国大众刊物中的现代居所概念” [Conceptualizing the Ideal Home: The Modern Dwelling in Mass-market Journals in Early 20th Century China]. 時代建築 Time + Architecture 3 (2018): 106-111.

Chu, Cecilia L. “Envisioning Future Pasts: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong.” In Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present, edited by Tim Bunnell and Daniel P.S. Goh, 64-76. Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2018.

Chu, Cecilia L. “Constructing a New Domestic Discourse: The Modern Home in Architectural Journals and Mass Market Texts in Early 20th Century China.” Journal of Architecture 22, 6 (September 2017): 1066-1091.

Chu, Cecilia L. “Narrating the Mall City.” In Stefan Al, ed., Mall City: Hong Kong’s Dreamworlds of Consumption, 83-90. Hong Kong University Press, 2016.

Chu, Cecilia L. “Spectacular Macau: Visioning Futures for A World Heritage City.” Geoforum 65 (October 2015): 440-450.

Chu, Cecilia L. and Romola Sanyal. “Spectacular Cities of Our Time.” Geoforum 65 (October 2015): 399-402.

Chu, Cecilia L. “Aspects of Urbanization in China: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou” (Book review). Planning Perspectives 30, 4 (2015), 665-668.

Chu, Cecilia. “Shanzheng and Gongde: Moral Regulation and Narratives of ‘Good Government’ in Colonial Hong Kong.” Journal of Historical Geography 42 (October 2013), 180-192.

Chu, Cecilia. “Combating Nuisance: Sanitation, Regulation, and the Politics of Property in Colonial Hong Kong.” In Robert Peckham and David Pomfret, eds., Imperial Contagions: Medicine and the Cultures of Planning in Asia, 17-36. Hong Kong University Press, 2013.

Chu, Cecilia. “Between Typologies and Representation: The Tong Lau and the Discourse of the ‘Chinese House.’” In Mrinalini Rajagopalan and Madhuri Desai, eds., Colonial Frames, Nationalist Histories: Imperial Legacies, Architecture, and Modernity, 253-283. Ashgate, 2012.

Chu, Cecilia. “Non West Modernist Past: On Architecture and Modernities” (Book review). Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 23, 2 (Spring 2012): 90-91.

Chu, Cecilia. “People Power as Exception: Three Controversies over Privatization in Posthandover Hong Kong.” Urban Studies 47, 8 (July 2010): 1773-1792.

CCHU9048 The City: Histories of Urbanism and the Built Environment

(Note: This is a common core course designed for undergraduate students across the university. The course was offered in 2016, 2017 and 2018)

What is a city? Through what processes is our built environment constituted? How do we dwell in our cities and how do different kinds of urban space shape our sense of place and community belonging? This course explores practices of urbanism across a range of contexts from antiquity to the present day. By doing so it allows students to develop insights into the social relations and human struggles that have been produced by, and continue to produce, particular types of built forms in different places over time. In the broadest sense, the course uses urbanism as a lens to understand the relationship between urban forms and the complex, multiple processes that constitute cities and their urban milieus.

The course content is organized around sets of case studies, with each focusing on a specific theme that indicates particular continuities and congruencies between cities of different locations and time periods. The discussion throughout the course engages with questions related to contemporary urbanization and consider how historical knowledge may impart a better understanding of challenges we are facing in the global present.

Assignments of the course include a series of exercises that combine historical research and creative writing. The formats of these exercises vary from year to year. The goal is to enable students to connect the tangible and intangible aspects of cities and the built environment and to strengthen their textual and visual skills. The course also includes a final project that involves an in-depth research of one city.

Course Website:

ARCH 3103 Environment, Community and Design: Agency of Change and Ethics of Practice

(Note: This course is designed for 3rd year undergraduate students of the Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies. The course was offered in 2017 and 2018.)

What are the extents and limits of architects and planners’ power to affect environmental and social change? How do they work with different communities and stakeholders to bring about betterment in people’s lives? What are the paradoxes in today’s design practice with the advent of neoliberal urbanization and concomitant crisis in housing, environmental protection and infrastructure provisions? What kinds of assumptions do different professionals of the built environment hold about the merits of their work and to what extent can these be seen as extensions of their ideologies? What reflexive knowledge do designers, policy makers and community members need to acquire in order to address the multifaceted problems we are facing in a globalizing world?

This seminar provides an introduction to the intertwined concepts of environment, community, and design and explore the contexts that shape their relationships in diverse localities. In contrast to conventional taught courses, significant emphasis of the seminar is placed on student-led activities designed to facilitate active learning through rigorous participation. Weekly seminar topics are structured to provide a systematic introduction to key debates over the ethics and social roles of design practice and explore the nature of emergent “design activism” in recent years. It also introduces students to different methods of studying the built environment and communities.

Throughout the semester, focus is placed on connecting theoretical concepts with actual practices via close examination of international and local case studies. The ultimate purpose is to help students develop a critical lens for deciphering the complex forces that shape the built environment and the ethical challenges facing today’s design practitioners.