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Rice U. to Study China’s New Towns

Monday, October 28, 2013

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Architects and urban planners should think less about tearing down and more about building upon neighborhoods set by culture and history, according to officials at Rice University.

That’s why the Houston, TX-based Rice School of Architecture plans to offer an intensive new, two-semester, research-based graduate program, “Present Future,” in fall 2014.

According to the university, the program aims to re-conceptualize the architect’s role in the future.

Rice University School of Architecture
Mahan Shirazi

The new postbaccalaureate program, set to begin at Rice University next fall, will focus on Hong Kong's New Towns. The New Town of Sha Tin (shown) will be studied throughout the program's first year.

"The roots of future urban design already exist today, and careful attention must be paid to how the current state of a neighborhood should and inevitably will inform its evolution," according to Albert Pope, the Gus Sessions Wortham Professor of Architecture, who will lead the program during its first two years.

"A deeper understanding of what exists and why it exists should serve as the springboard for the next iteration of the city, as opposed to coming up with a kind of science-fiction ecotopia."

Present Future is geared toward students with either professional or undergraduate design degrees, and not necessarily in architecture, Pope said.

‘Next City’ Theme

The program’s theme during the first year will be "Next City" and will feature study of Hong Kong’s New Towns, including the New Town of Sha Tin.

The New Towns are developments built since the 1950s to handle the region's burgeoning population. Pope estimates that 250 million people will be urbanized in Asia in the next 20 years.

“That's more than 10 New York Cities – huge numbers – and the models they're using are crude, to say the very least,” Pope said.

Rice University’s inaugural class will travel to the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Megalopolis to investigate the brief but potent history of the modernist New Town. Students will produce a book-length publication that ties together research and design work from the two semesters, according to Rice University.

Application, Degree

Applications are due by Dec. 31. More information on the program is available here.

Students who complete the program will receive a Master of Arts and Architecture degree.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Design; Education; Worker training

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