In April, Architecture lecturer Ricardo Assis Rosa and students James Fewtrell, Rosa Teira Paz and Sally Collinson from the Masters in International Architectural Regeneration and Development, had the unique opportunity of representing Oxford Brookes at a two-week Sino-UK Architecture student workshop. The workshop focused on the real-life issue of the revitalisation of a Capital Steel factory in Beijing.
Ten universities, four from the UK and six from China, nominated one teacher and three students to participate. The programme involved a series of exchange and co-operation events between the two countries, and the 36 nominated students were split into six mixed groups to develop team designs for the project. This provided the valuable opportunity to interchange ideas among nationalities and cultures, encouraging each side to learn from the other, in order to provide a rich and varied answer to the problem.
The practicing task selected was an authentic, country level case – the Industrial Heritage Protection and Renovation Project of Beijing Capital Steel. Located about 20km west of the main city, the river-bound site chosen for the project is the size of central Oxford and coveted for development, as well as being home to many industrial buildings. Rosa said:
“(the site) represents an opportunity for a new relation with water and the open landscape, in contrast with the urban and closed views in the city.”
The workshop involved working on a master plan for the whole area, and a more detailed proposal for a specific part of the complex. With guidance and lectures from teachers, enterprises and industry experts, all team designs were judged by experts at the end of the workshop, and the work will be published into a book.
As a result of the co-operation between nationalities, Rosa says:
“The final proposals presented for the different groups were very different and suggestive. The lectures organized within the workshop gave me an insight of the type of work and focus that the different universities are carrying out.”
In addition to working, the UK students had the opportunity to explore Beijing with their Chinese hosts, conducting fieldwork and extra research while discovering areas not usually visited by tourists. Sally said:
“Walking through the hutongs and surrounding residential areas we were able to experience some of the character and eccentricities of street-life in Beijing… The concept of our project was well received and the investigations into Chinese street-life commended.”
Of the experience, James commented:
“The Sino-British Exchange to Beijing has been an exciting and rewarding two weeks, providing a fantastic and exciting opportunity on many levels. The exchange offers the chance to meet student architects from a breadth of backgrounds, providing a great platform to share, debate and learn from one another. The design workshop itself, based in a disused industrial complex, will also allow a critical testing of many of the theories learnt through my specialist International Architectural Regeneration and Development studies, in understanding both people and build context to aid the design of exceptional and relevant regenerative architecture.”
The students from the six Chinese universities will pay a return visit to the UK for further discussion and co-operation in October.