2016 BEIJING JOINT URBAN DESIGN STUDIO: Conservation and Re-development of Industrial Heritage: Shanghai Minsheng Dock

Conservation and Re-development of Industrial Heritage: Shanghai Minsheng Dock

MIT - Tsinghua University - Jiao Tong University |  May 22-June 19, 2016
Sponsors: Paul Sun Fund, STL Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab, Center for Advanced Urbanism Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MISTI China

The 2016 Joint Beijing Urban Design Studio will take place in China over a month-long period this coming summer.  It will involve 16 architecture, planning, and real estate students from MIT, and an equal number from our partner universities, plus faculty.  The overall goal of the Joint Urban Design Studio is to take on challenging, large-scale urban development projects in China through international, interdisciplinary collaboration.

The focus of the studio this year will be conservation and re-use of Industrial Heritage, an urgent concern in China, where rapid urbanization has destroyed much of the country’s traditional culture and almost all evidence of its industrial development.  The site for the studio -- Shanghai Minsheng Dock, located along the Hongpu River -- was developed in the late 19th century, when it was considered to be the most advanced port in the Far East.  Abandoned in 2005, the site preserves warehouses as well as industrial and port facilities, including two enormous rice grain elevators.

The city wishes to see the 25-acre site preserved and reused for 21st century activities, which may include creative offices, entertainment & commercial uses, cultural amenities, and creative cultural media industries, research, and other uses. This transformation will be challenging given the configuration of the buildings, access, and environmental issues such as sea-level.  Currently, there is no finalized plan for the property.                                   

The MIT-THU-SJU project will research site conditions, and propose alternative, socially responsible design and development plans.  The City of Shanghai and the project developer are supportive of our involvement at this opportune moment and will provide data on the site and advise on its potentials. Hopefully, the results of the studio will assist in reaching consensus on the future of this important site.             


The goals of socially responsible design, development, and entrepreneurship are central to this project, which aims to privately redevelop an historically significant, environmentally sensitive industrial complex into a 21st century mixed use site. Student teams will be challenged to leverage the site’s extraordinary value to design a development project that may provide cultural creative offices, commercial and entertainment uses, educational facilities, research, and public cultural amenities for a broad range of activities, as well as other uses. We expect to produce 5-6 highly innovative alternatives to the typical urban development paradigm, in which prime waterfront sites are reserved for upper income people. 


The studio will consist of research and design phases. The research phase will begin following selection of students in the Fall of 2015.  During the spring 2016 semester, we will collect and analyze materials on precedent projects, industrial heritage, and development context.  The products will be compiled into a briefing book for the project. 

All participants will meet in Shanghai on May 22, when we will form inter-school, inter-disciplinary teams.  Teams will be assigned topics for field research on-site and in the surrounding context including social, economic, transport, and physical issues.  This will include interviews with key stakeholders and visits to the developer and city planning offices.   Concluding the first week, teams will make a presentation to the stakeholders in Shanghai on the findings of their research on “Site Clues”.

The design phase of the project will take place in Beijing on the campus of Tsinghua University. 2016 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Joint Studio, and in Beijing the students will have the opportunity to participate in the celebration, including the opening – in Tiananmen Square -- of an exhibition featuring three decades of studio work, and a symposium on international design collaboration.

Teams will develop their proposals in Beijing over three weeks, with products due each week, interspersed with lectures and tours.  Representatives of the teams and the faculty will return to Shanghai to present the alternatives to the city, developer, and related parties, and participate in a symposium on the future of industrial heritage and the Shanghai Minsheng Dock, before returning home. 

The urban design studio will be collaboratively led by:

Dennis Frenchman, Leventhal Professor of Urban Design and Planning, architect and Associate Dean, SA+P
Dr. Jota Samper Escobar, architect and Lecturer in Urban Design

Zhang Jie, Professor of Urban Design and Planning
Shao Lei, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design

Wang Lin, Professor of City Planning
Dr. Wu Jian, Lecturer in Architecture

All will participate in fieldwork, studio work, reviews and lectures, contributing their areas of expertise.