IDSS @ Tongji University

This past week, many of us PSU MURP students had the chance to participate in the International Design Summer School hosted by the College of Architecture and Urban Planning (CAUP) at Tongji University in Shanghai. This 10-day workshop-style event brought together students from all over the world, with the challenge to work as teams in creating a waterfront revitalization design proposal at the intersection of the Hongpu and Yangtze Rivers.

Architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning students from universities in Austria, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Canada, China, the UK and the US hit the ground running to quickly learn the existing conditions of the site and then develop a design for the 7.66 sq. km area. Each of the six student teams were to create a design that incorporated components of wetland restoration, culturally relevant design, and a connection with the nearby cruise terminal infrastructure. The expected deliverables of “summer school” provided students with a simulation of the actual Shanghai Urban Design Challenge that will be accepting proposals this fall. The specific deliverables were to present a concept design mid-week and a final presentation of our master plan at the end of the summer school.


I will spare you the play-by-play details of all the challenges and breakthroughs many of us experienced- but needless to say, it was a rigorously rewarding experience that we all learned something from. I had the pleasure of working in a group of amazingly talented landscape architects and urban planners from China, Austria, and the US. Accompanied by the counsel of Tongji University associate professor, Nannan Dong, we serendipitously came together around a playful and experimental working group style that generated intriguing products and many fond memories.

Here are just a handful of takeaways from my experience at Tongji last week. I recognize that these takeaways are all over the place (from introspective to superficial) so just bear with me:

  1. Prioritizing good team chemistry before project deliverables is a sure bet to cultivating a more trusting, respectful, and comfortable working environment.
  2. Being creative means taking chances. It also takes time to feel confident in expressing and sharing your creativity with others.
  3. Eat a big lunch because the dinner canteen offering will always be slightly underwhelming.
  4. I really like working on teams. #teamworkmakesthedreamwork
  5. Sometimes–when you have an talented cast of puppeteers, tactful narration, and an amazing soundtrack–shadow puppets are the perfect way to avoid giving a boring ol PPT presentation.

Now back to observations & adventures in Shenzhen!

PS – Here is a photographic comparison of lunch offerings vs. dinner. I’ll let you be the judge:


One thought on “IDSS @ Tongji University

  1. Drew says:

    Talk about bad presentation on that dinner plate huh??? What did you say to the chef?
    On the other hand, wish I could have seen that shadow puppet show, congratulations on receiving top honors in the design contest!


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