London Events


Service Centre for Party Members and the Masses, Geguang Community, Wuhan,  People’s Republic of China

The two-day public event brings together urban researchers from different disciplines to discuss socio-spatial design in relationship to diversifying models of governance and spatialised governmentality. This will conclude a series of discussions around how social projects, spaces, and realities shape three contexts critical to understanding urban design and planning in China: the history of collective forms and spaces in relationship to current community development agendas, socio-spatial changes in urban and rural development, and modes of governmentality.

The event in December focuses on the instrumentalisation of spatial design by government to shape collective forms, collective spaces, and collective subjectivities, or, in the contemporary context, the building of communities. This relates to an increasing political and economic need for the support of urban constituencies that are brought together by concrete, shared social activities, interests, and benefits that can provide social networks of support and care. Driven by fundamental demographic changes, such as an ageing population and household transformations, as well as a devolution of social and public services by governments to institutions led by civil society and local communities, these new social groups and their needs and values defy traditional beliefs in the nuclear family, the neighbourhood unit, and liberal models of governance that underpin much of global urban planning. Western-centric urban theories and practices based on notions of the public, public space, or placemaking are increasingly unproductive, whether conceptually or practically, in the design of contemporary cities.

To explore the impact of transformations from the collective to the communal, from standardisation to planning, and from government to governance, the public events will also raise the questions of which aspects of planning are intercultural or culturally specific, and how urban experiences and planning in the Global South challenges existing dogmas of urban design theory and practice.


Date: Thursday 6th December 2018
Time: 10:00 – 18:00
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1
RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

During Day 1, a symposium will bring together presentations by international academics and researchers focused on China.


10:00-10:05 Welcome by Adrian Lahoud (Dean of the School of Architecture, RCA)
10:05-10:15 Introduction by Sam Jacoby (Research Leader of the School of Architecture, RCA)
10:15-10:50 ‘China’s Changing Landscape of Neighbourhood Governance and Participation: From a Governmentality Perspective’, Wan Xiaoyuan (Planning Researcher, School of Rural Development and Planning, University of Guelph)
10:50-11:25 ‘From Danwei to Xiaoqu: The Reinvention of Residential Community Space in Urban China’, David Bray (Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Sydney)
11:25-12:00 ‘Housing Privatization and the Return of the State: Changing Governance in China’, Wu Fulong (Professor of Planning, University College London)
12:00-12:35 ‘From “No Holes in Walls” to “Street and Community Renovation” in Beijing: A Transformation of Urban Governance?’, Tang Yan (Associate Professor, Department of Urban Planning, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University)
12:35-13:00 Discussion

13:00-14:00 Lunch break

14:00-14:35 ‘China’s Planning and Community Shaping: Shifts in Scales and Forms’, Liu Jian (Associate Professor & Vice Dean, Department of Urban Planning, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University)
14:35-15:10 ‘Collective Forms in China: Collective Space and its Governance’, Sam Jacoby (RCA)
15:10-15:45 ‘China’s Urban Space and Grassroots Governance Organisation’, Zhang Xuelin (Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Wuhan University)
15:45-16:20 ‘Personalised Politics in Grassroots Organisations in Urban and Rural Tianjin: Guanxi Practice in Socialized Governance as Social Control and as Claims Making’, Sophia Woodman (Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh)
16:20-16:55 ‘Digua Community and Spatial Agency’, Zhou Zishu (Founder, Digua Community, Beijing; Director, Department of System Design, Central Academy of Fine Arts)
16:55-17:30 ‘Spaces of the Political’, Michael Dutton (Professor of Politics, Goldsmiths University of London)
17:30-18:00 Concluding discussion


Date: Friday 7th December 2018
Time: 10:30 – 17:30
Venue: Darwin Building, 6th Floor, Room D612
RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Day 2 is organised around a series of roundtable discussions in which the topics of Day 1 are examined within a wider global context. Five sets of short presentations and dicussions will compare and juxtapose common challenges of spatial governmentality and community building around the globe:

Spatial governmentality refers to the rationalities and mentalities of governance as enacted through the instrumentalisation of space and its design. We will explore how the shaping of cities, neighbourhoods or even buildings through forms of knowledge, policies, plans and different spatial techniques and strategies respond to multiscalar cultural, social, political, environmental and economic challenges facing contemporary societies.
– In what forms does spatial governmentality materialise across different scales, whether from the international or national scale to the local, or urban to domestic?
– How is spatial governmentality institutionalised or who are the stakeholders?
– How does spatialised governmentality effect urban planning and design theory and practice?

This set of presentations will discuss how spatial practices shape collective forms, collective spaces, and collective subjectivities. We will examine how new concepts and practices of community building effect how urban constituencies face political, social and economic challenges within contemporary cities.
– How are ideas of community related to new social networks of support and care and, how are changing stakeholders in urban governance impact the legitimacy of communities?
– What are the main challenges for the spatial governance of collectives and the shaping of collective subjectivities?
– How are community-led initiatives or projects enabling changes in urban governance or legislation?


10:30-10:45 Welcome by Sam Jacoby (Research Leader of the School of Architecture, RCA)

Session I
10:45-11:05 ‘The Micro-district in the USSR and the Danwei’, Boya Guo (PhD candidate, Harvard University)

11:05-11:25 ‘Full Circle: Changing Communities in China’, Jingru (Cyan) Cheng (Postdoctoral Research Associate, RCA)
11:25-11:45 Discussion chaired by David Bray (University of Sydney) and Guillermo Ruiz (RCA)

Session II
11:45-12:05 ‘Spatial Governmentalities of Rural China’, David Bray (Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Sydney)
12:05-12:25 ‘Remittance Urbanism’, Guillermo Ruiz (PhD candidate, RCA)
12:25-12.45 Discussion chaired by Raül Avilla Royo (RCA) and Jingru (Cyan) Cheng (RCA)

13:00-14:00 Lunch break

Session III
14:00-14:20 ‘Sustaining National Identity in the UAE’, Sophie Johnson (PhD candidate, RCA)
14:20-14:40 ‘International Governance of Heritage’, Francesca Romana Forlini (PhD candidate, RCA)
14:40-15:00 Discussion chaired by Alasdair Jones (LSE) and Seyithan Ozer (RCA)

Session IV
15:00-15:20 ‘On Socio-Spatial Measures of Community’, Alasdair Jones (Assistant Professor in Qualitative Research Methodology, LSE)

15:20-15:40 ‘Design Governance’, Seyithan Ozer (PhD candidate, RCA)
15:40-16:00 Discussion chaired by Justinien Tribillion (UCL) and Francesca Forlini (RCA)

16:00-16:30 Break

Session V
16:30-16.50 Community Architecture in Barcelona’, Raül Avilla Royo (PhD candidate, RCA)
16:50-17:10 ‘Producing the Parisian Banlieue’, Justinien Tribillion (PhD candidate, UCL)
17:10-17:30 Discussion chaired by Boya Guo (Harvard University) and Sophie Johnson (RCA)

Presentation online, please see:


David Bray is a Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Research Coordinator at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sidney. David Bray’s research is focused on exploring the inter-relationships between the built environment, governance and social change in contemporary China. Utilising post-structuralist theorisations on power, ‘governmentality’ and spatiality he aims to understand both how the built environment is imagined and planned at a governmental and technocratic level, as well as how its reconstruction impacts on communities and subjectivities at the local level.

Michael Dutton holds a joint professorship with the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Science at China’s Tsinghua University. His work circles around his principle intellectual interest (social theory) and his principle geographic archive, China. Increasingly the distinction between archive and interest has become blurred. His earliest major work, Policing and Punishment in China (1992), explored the way various Chinese governments disciplined the subject, while his second major work, Streetlife China (1998) looked at the popular responses to governmental disciplining. His third book, Policing Chinese Politics (2005) explored the underlying dynamic propelling the Maoist revolution while his last book, Beijing Time, revealed another sometimes hidden side to life in the Chinese capital. In his forthcoming book, Dutton explores the concept of the political but once again he does so in a way that highlights its Chinese characteristics. Arguing for an art rather than a science of the political, Dutton’s work offers a more liquid and affective understanding of the political.

Sam Jacoby is a chartered architect with a Diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture and a doctorate from the Technische Universität Berlin. He is currently Research Leader of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art and Director of the AA MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design: Projective Cities programme. He recently co-edited with Gangyi Tan and Jingru (Cyan) Cheng the special journal issue ‘Collective Forms in China’ of Xin Jianzhu/New Architecture (2018) and is co-editor of the forthcoming book The Socio-spatial Design of Community and Governance (Springer/Tongji University Press, 2019).

Liu Jian is a tenured associate professor of urban planning and design at the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, with special academic interests in planning system and legislation, urban renovation, brownfield redevelopment, housing and community, and town and village planning and design. She has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Human Settlements at University of British Colombia in Canada; l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville and l’Observatoire d’Architecture de la Chine Contemporaine in France; and Graduate School of Design Harvard University in the US. Liu is author of several books and many papers, published both domestically and internationally. She was a PI on research projects funded by national foundations, local governments, and international organizations, and is active in both domestic and international academic circles, serving several academic journals and professional organizations. Liu is a registered urban planner, who has led projects of urban planning and design in many Chinese cities, towns and villages.

Tang Yan is an associate professor in the Urban Planning Department at the School of Architecture,Tsinghua University, China. Her research, practice and teaching span the intersection between urban planning & design and urban-rural governance, and recently focus on urban regeneration institutions in Chinese mega-cities and large-scale urban design projects in China. She has been a SPURS fellow of MIT, the visiting scholar of Cardiff Metropolitan University and Free University of Berlin, and postdoctor of TU Dortmund. She has published 6 books and several book chapters in her interested fields, and about 100 papers in international and domestic journals and conferences-some of them have won national excellent paper awards in contests such as China Youth Planning Paper Contests, China “Qiushi Theoretical Forum” Planning Paper Competition, and “JIN-Jingchang Outstanding Paper of Urban Planning of China”.

Wan Xiaoyuan (Sharon) is an international teaching associate at the Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield. She received a Bachelor degree from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Peking University, China in 2009 and a doctorate from the Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield in 2013. Sharon’s research experiences include neighbourhood-level planning in Nanluogu Alley, Beijing, UNESCO funded heritage preservation projects in South-east Asia and international comparative study on post-earthquake planning funded by Peking University Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Her current research interest is neighbourhood governance, public participation and grassroots democratization in China.

Sophia Woodman is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science. Her research interests include citizenship, human rights, migration and social movements in contemporary China, with a focus on the quotidian politics of citizens in localities. Beyond China, she studies transnational social movements and the politics of sustainability. She has recently published articles in Citizenship Studies, The China Quarterly and Asian Studies Review. She is currently involved in an ESRC-funded collaborative project between universities in the UK, Germany and China on migration of Chinese students for higher education, see

Wu Fulong is Bartlett Professor of Planning at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. He has published many papers on urban spatial structure, urban housing and land development, and is working on China’s urbanism and urban development, urban and regional governance, urban poverty, and social spatial differentiation. He is among the top 50 most cited human geographers in the world according to Social Science Citation Index. His research includes China’s urban development and planning and its social and sustainable challenges. He is co-editor of Restructuring the Chinese City (2005), Marginalization in China (2010), International Perspectives on Suburbanization (2011), Rural Migrants in Urban China (2013), editor of Globalization and the Chinese City (2006), China’s Emerging Cities (2007), and co-author of Urban Development in Post-Reform China: State, Market, and Space (2007), and Urban Poverty in China (2010).

Zhang Xuelin is an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Wuhan University. With a multi-disciplinary education background in law and sociology, she has been engaged in rural and urban community research in China for a long time, with a cumulative fieldwork time of more than 700 days. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on Urban Community Governance in China, including case studies in eight cities in China, such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan. Her research interests focus on urban space, urban governance and urban communication.

Zhou Zishu (Spencer) is a multidisciplinary designer and researcher. After being awarded two master degrees from CAFA and Central Saint Martins in London, he is now a lecturer and director of the System Design department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. His research focus is on social innovation in contemporary Chinese society. He founded Digua Community (Sweet Potato Community) in 2014. Digua Community is an experimental social design project transforming unused air defense basements into shared community spaces. In 2016, The Digua project has won the DFA Design for Asia awards/Grand Award by the Hong Kong Design Centre. In 2018, The Digua project was a nominee of the “Beazley Designs of the Year” by the Design Museum of London.

Raül Avilla Royo studied architecture in ETSAB Barcelona and pursued an Mphil at the Architectural Association. He is currently a PhD candidate at the RCA in London, researching on the on the right to housing under a framing of synergies between universities, social collectives and administration. Since 2013 he runs his own practice, and he is member of the collective Arquitectos de Cabecera in Barcelona, a pedagogical approach to the new roles that architects assume in community-led transformation processes.

Cheng Jingru (Cyan) is a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, currently working on the project ‘Collective Forms in China’ supported by the British Academy. Her research interests lie in the intersections between disciplines, especially shared ideas and methods by architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China. Cheng obtained both PhD by Design and M.Phil Projective Cities from the Architectural Association (AA) and was the co-director of AA Wuhan Visiting School 2015-17. Employing the design research method, her PhD thesis focuses on rurality as a spatial question at levels of territory, settlement and household. Her research ‘Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China’ is shortlisted for RIBA President’s Awards for Research 2018 (final result to be announced).

Francesca Romana Forlini is an architect and PhD candidate in Architecture at the RCA under the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Scholarship. She’s a Fulbrighter and alumna of Harvard GSD with an MDes in Critical Conservation with distinction. She is currently visiting lecturer in history and theory of architecture at the University of Hertfordshire. Francesca has previously worked as teaching and research assistant at Harvard GSD, RCA, and Sapienza University, and presented her research in several international conferences. Her PhD explores the cultural heritage value of ordinary domestic interiors and housing.

Guo Boya is a cultural geographer with an interest in how cultural powers shape the built environment. Trained as an urban planner, she is also interested in conservation, planning, and urban morphology. In particular, her current researches focus on socialist spatial practices and the phenomenon of architectural mimicry and themed space in China since 1990s. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in urban planning and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from Peking University, and a MDes degree in Critical Conservation from the Harvard GSD. She is now pursuing her DDes degree at the GSD.

Sophie A Johnson is a designer, educator and PhD candidate. Having started her career in interior design she then moved into teaching and has taught across London’s many design universities from Ravensbourne, Chelsea School of Art, Central St Martins and Wimbledon in the UK, to the Canadian University in Dubai and is an external moderator for Gulf University Bahrain. Currently she is undertaking her PhD at the RCA where she is focusing on the UAE National Villa and its living patterns and as a consequence considering its implications as a form of intangible heritage.

Alasdair Jones has a background on geography and sociology, and completed his PhD at the LSE’s Cities Programme. Alasdair’s research interests broadly concern the relationship between built form in cities and social practices, and his research to date has centred on public space, public transport and the ways that citizenship is experienced in urban settings. He is interested in the use of qualitative research methods and contributes to the teaching of a range of methodological modules to students from a diverse range of disciplines across the LSE.

Seyithan Özer is an architect and a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. Before arriving at the RCA, Seyithan earned an MPhil degree from Projective Cities programme at the Architectural Association. His research interests are the methodologies and methods of architectural and urban knowledge, governance, and technology. His doctoral research concerns a quantitative approach to architectural design, exploring the ways design knowledge can be integrated to housing governance.

Guillermo Ruiz is an architect and urban planner from the Universidad Iberoamericana and the Architectural Association whose research focuses on the intersection of space, state, and power. He received a Master’s in Design Studies with Distinction at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2013 where he also collaborated as a Research Fellow and is currently based in London where he is Stavros Niarchos PhD Scholar at the Royal College of Art’s School of Architecture.

Justinien Tribillon is an independent writer, researcher and editor. An urbanist, he’s interested in understanding cities, their social fabric, the way they are governed and designed. He teaches urban studies at the Bartlett, UCL, where he is a PhD candidate researching the socio-spatial divide between Paris proper and the Banlieue, relying on an interdisciplinary approach that includes urban studies, history, architecture, cultural studies and sociology. Justinien also works with architectural practices and local authorities as a consultant, is a researcher in Theatrum Mundi and contributes regularly with The Guardian.

Symposium @ Royal College of Art