Cecilia L. Chu is Assistant Professor in the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, where she teaches courses in architectural history, landscape history and urban studies. 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.
Chu, Cecilia L. Colonial Urban Development in Hong Kong: Speculative Housing and Segregation in the City. Planning, History and Environment Series, Routledge (forthcoming 2020).
Chu, Cecilia L. and Shenjing He. The Speculative City: Emergent Forms and Norms of the Built Environment. University of Toronto Press (forthcoming 2020).
Chu, Cecilia L. “The Afterlives of Modern Housing.” In Routledge Companion to Contemporary Architectural History, edited by Duanfang Lu. Routledge (forthcoming, 2019).
Chu, Cecilia L. “‘Placing ‘Asia’ against the ‘West’: Occidentalism and the Production of Architectural Images in Shanghai and Hong Hong.” Architectural Theory Review Vol. 22, no. 3 (2018): 309-337.
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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001671851500158X
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.
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).
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.