Cecilia L. Chu is Associate Professor in the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. Trained as an urban historian with a background in design and conservation, Chu’s research and teaching focus on the social and cultural processes that shape the forms and meanings of built environments and their impacts on local communities, particularly in Asia. Informing her work is an interest in the design and representation of spaces (as buildings, landscapes, and infrastructures) and the production of their social meanings and values. She is especially interested in the intersection of professional and popular knowledge of architecture and landscapes and how these articulations have contributed to city-making and the shaping of collective aspirations of citizens.
Chu’s first book, Colonial Urban Development in Hong Kong: Speculative Housing and Segregation in the City (Planning, History and Environment Series, Routledge, spring 2020), traces a spatial history of Hong Kong through the lens of speculative housing practices. Her edited book, The Speculative City: Emergent Forms and Norms of the Built Environment (University of Toronto Press, Spring 2020), explores the spatial and material processes of speculative urbanization in cities around the world. Her current research projects include an investigation of the cultural history of modern parks and recreational landscapes in China, as well as a comparative study of conservation practices in Asia that have given rise to new interpretations of colonial heritage and histories.
Chu is a co-founder and current president the Hong Kong Chapter of DOCOMOMO (International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement), an international organization with a mission to promote public knowledge of modern architecture, landscapes and urbanism. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), a scholarly association concerned with the study of vernacular and popular built environments across the world. She is a current member of the Editorial Boards of Journal of Urban History, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, and Journal for the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong.
Infrastructure Imagination: Hong Kong City Futures 1972-1988
The City Gallery, Hong Kong, March-May 2018.
Organizing unit: Division of Landscape Architecture, The University of Hong Kong.
Mapping Modern Architecture in Hong Kong
Central Market Oasis Gallery, Central, Hong Kong, July 2013.
Organizing unit: DOCOMOMO Hong Kong
*Received HKU’s Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award (team award).
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. <br/ ><br/ > 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: https://learning.hku.hk/cchu9048/
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.