Dr Jingru (Cyan) Cheng
School of Architecture
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Jingru (Cyan) Cheng is a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, currently working on 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.
Cyan obtained both PhD by Design (2018) and MPhil Projective Cities (2014) at 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. Cyan's research on Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China received a commendation from RIBA President's Awards for Research 2018 (within the Cities and Community category).Show more
Cyan has given presentations internationally (at places such as Columbia University, University of Edinburgh, University of Westminster, Tsinghua University, National Historical Museum of Sweden, Beijing Design Week, Nanjing International Art Festival and Green-Door Festival of Rural Architecture and Design, Ireland). She has established research and teaching collaborations between the UK and China through organising joint funding projects, visiting school programmes and academic symposia, working with stakeholders and participants from academia, industry, government and the public. In addition, Cyan is the co-founder of ACROSS Architecture, an independent platform of spatial thinking and design, of which AA Chinese alumni are constitutive.
Design consultancy on the regeneration project of Miaosan Community, Wuhan, P R China (2018 – present)Show more
HUST Model Workshop, commissioned by School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), completed in 2014
Wuhan City of Design (UNESCO title), China
Hongmei Sub-District Government, Shanghai, China
Tsinghua University (School of Architecture), China
Huazhong University of Science and Technology (School of Architecture and Urban Planning), China
Wuhan University (Department of Sociology), China
London Confucius Institute, SOAS, London, UK
China Design Centre, London, UK
The Global School, Beijing, China
New Architecture, China
Urban Flux, ChinaFormosa Salon, London, UK
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Journal Publications and Conference Papers:
Cheng, J. (2018) ‘Spatial Design as Political Manifesto: The Design Proposals of China’s People’s Commune 1958-1960’. New Architecture 180, pp. 29–33.Show more
Jacoby, S. and Cheng, J. (2018) ‘Collective Forms in China: People’s Commune and Danwei’. New Architecture 180, pp. 5–11.
Jacoby, S., Cheng, J. and Tan, G. (2018) ‘Introduction: Collective Forms in China’. New Architecture 180, pp. 4.
Cheng, J. (2018) ‘Observations on Agritourism’. Log 43, pp. 59.
Cheng, J. and Jacoby, S. (2017) ‘Design Research and Architectural Urbanism: Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge Production and Practice’. New Architecture 174, pp. 141–143.
Cheng, J. and Zhan, C. (2017) ‘The Political Dimension of Architecture and Architectural Education: On Ideology and Methodology of the AA’. New Architecture 172, pp. 98–102.
Cheng, J. (2017) ‘Rural Home for China’s Floating Population: The Family House for A Split Household Arrangement’, paper presented to Buildings in Society International III conference, Stockholm, Sweden, May 2017.
Cheng, J. (2017) ‘A Territorial Project: “Building A New Socialist Countryside” in China’, paper presented to 14th Annual Architectural Humanities Research Association Conference, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, April 2017.
Cheng, J, Carlin, B. and Gonzalez, M. (2016) ‘Materialisation of Subjectivity and the Agency of Architecture: From Domestic Spaces to the Urban Realm’. New Architecture 168, pp. 121–128.
Cheng, J, Carlin, B. and Gonzalez, M. (2016) ‘An Experimental Investigation in Family, House, Home: Fiction as Methodology’. New Architecture 166, pp. 118–123.
Cheng, J. (2016) ‘Territory, Settlement and Family: A Project for Post-Hukou Rural China’, paper presented to Alter-Rurality 3 conference (held by ARENA: Architectural Research Network), Ireland, June 2016.
Cheng, J. (2016) ‘Radical Settlement: The Architecture of the People’s Commune in Rural China’, paper presented to Assembling Values: Architecture and Political Economy conference, Columbia University, New York, May 2016.
Cheng, J. (2015) ‘Notes on Education and Research on the Hukou Reform in China’. Urban Flux 45, pp. 94–97.
Cheng, J. (2015). ‘The Subdivision of Type and the Ground Scenario - Part II: At Urban Level’. Urban Flux 42, Remarks section, pp. 3–8.
Cheng, J. (2015). ‘The Subdivision of Type and the Ground Scenario - Part I: At Typological Level’. Urban Flux 41, Remarks section, pp. 3–7.
Books and Journal Special Issues:
Jacoby, S. and Cheng, J. ed. (2020) The Socio-Spatial Design of Community and Governance: Interdisciplinary Urban Design in China. Springer. (The Chinese edition by Tongji University Press) [Forthcoming]
Jacoby, S., Cheng, J. and Tan, G., ed. (2018) ‘Collective Forms in China: A Contemporary Review’, special issue of New Architecture 180.
Cheng, J. and Qiao, J. ed. (2015) ‘XL in S’, Remarks section of Urban Flux 41 & 42.
Cheng, J. and Qiao, J. ed. (2014) ‘iArchitect’, Remarks section of Urban Flux 40.
Invited Presentations and Seminars (selected):
Home: A Project of Rural China [Lecture series]
Guest lecture, Department of Architecture, University of Westminster, London, UK, March 2019
Projective Cities guest seminar, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, Feb. 2019
History & Theory seminar, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, UK, Feb. 2019
Full Circle: Changing Communities in China
Invited presentation at Spatialised Governmentality: The Global Context [roundtables], School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, United Kingdom, Dec. 2018.
Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China
Invited presentation at Domestic Frontiers [symposium], Architectural Association, London, United Kingdom, Nov. 2018.
A Project of Rural China @ RCA PhD/MRes Supervisor Convenes series
Invited seminar, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, UK, Nov. 2018.
Alternatives @ Forward – AA Positions series
Invited discussant, Architectural Association, London, United Kingdom, Oct. 2018.
China’s People’s Commune and the Everyday Practice
Invited presentation at Collective Forms: The Chinese Neighbourhood Unit [symposium], Tsinghua University, Beijing, P R China, Sept 2018.
The Social-Spatial Design of Rurality
Guest seminar at Projective Cities Programme, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, United Kingdom, Feb. 2018.
Contemporary Rural Home for China’s Floating Population
Invited presentation at Debate: Building, Dwelling, Thinking @ Green-Door – A Festival of Rural Architecture and Design [symposium], Co. Leitrim, Ireland, Sept. 2017
Propaganda Poster and Architecture of China’s People’s Commune
Invited presentation at Historicode: A Wake-up Call Or a Death Knell @ Nanjing International Art Festival [conference], Nanjing, P R China, Feb. 2017.
Transformation of Chinese Family and Housing Typologies
Guest seminar at Architectural Association Tropicality Visiting School, Vietnam, Aug. 2016.
Deterritorialization and Reterritorialization of Chinese Rural Society
Invited presentation at Urban-Rural Regeneration @ Beijing Design Week [symposium], Beijing, P R China, Oct. 2015
Hukou Reform as Urban Reform
Invited Presentation at Architecture and City @ China Design Centre [symposium], London, United Kingdom, July 2014
Organised Symposia and Exhibitions (selected):
Coordinator/Convenor/Curator, Collective Forms in China event series
- Exhibition: Collective Forms in China
At Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Korea, 2019 [Forthcoming]
- Spatialised Governmentality: China and the Global Context
Royal College of Art, London, United Kingdom, 6–7 Dec. 2018
- Collective Forms: The Chinese Neighbourhood Unit
A joint event by the Royal College of Art, Tsinghua University, The Global School and MAT Office, at Tsinghua University and Leping Foundation, Beijing, P R China, 8–10 Sept. 2018
- Collective Forms in China
A joint event by the Royal College of Art, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and New Architecture
At Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, P R China, 3–4 July 2018
- Exhibition: Collective Forms in China
Architectural Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, May – Nov. 2018
- Architectural Urbanism: Interdisciplinary Urban Design Challenges
A joint event by Architectural Association, Royal College of Art, and Hongmei Home Commonweal Service Centre and Chuang Xin Hui, at Huaxin Conference Centre, Shanghai, P R China, 10 Dec. 2017
- Socio-Spatial Design and the Transformation of Urban-Rural China
A joint event by Architectural Association, Royal College of Art and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, P R China, 9 Dec. 2017
- Exhibition: Collective Forms in China
Beijing Design Week, Beijing, P R China, Sept. – Oct. 2016
Coordinator/Convenor, ACROSS seminar series
- Fire, Smoke, Roasted Beast [crowdfunded public event]
The first-ever Chinese New Year event at the AA
At the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, Feb. 2019
In collaboration with London Confucius Institute, at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, UK, Feb. 2016
- To Our Dear Countryside – Dialogues and Dreams
In collaboration with Formosa Salon
At University College London, London, UK, Jun. 2015
China Design Centre, London, UK, Oct. 2014
Other Symposia and Exhibitions
- Co-Organiser, Domestic Frontiers [symposium]
At Architectural Association, London, U. K., 30 Nov. 2018
- Invited Contributor, Home, Sweet Home [exhibition]
At Shanghai Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China, Nov. 2017 - Mar. 2018
- Invited Contributor, China House Vision 99+1 [exhibition]
At Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Shanghai, China, Mar. 2016
- Invited Contributor, Baitaisi Remade [exhibition]
At Beijing International Design Week, Beijing, China, Oct. 2015
- Selected Contributor, AA Graduate Honours Exhibition
Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, 2014
- Exhibition: Collective Forms in China
Awards and Grants
2018, RIBA President’s Awards for Research – Commendation in the Cities and Community Category
2017, Great Britain–China Educational Trust – Chinese Student Award
2017, Henry Lester Trust Grant
2017, Shortlisted for RIBAJ’s Eye Line 2017
2015–2017, Architectural Association PhD Travel and Research Awards (5 times)
2015–2017, Architectural Association PhD Bursary
2014, Architectural Association Director’s Selection – MPhil Thesis
2012, Bachelor Thesis Award of Hubei Province, P R China
2008, National Scholarship of P R China
Intersections between disciplines, especially shared ideas and methods by architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China.
Two directions of current research:
1. The idea of the collective, collective subjectivity and collective space in relation to community renewal and community governance in China, and how these can contribute to a richer interdisciplinary approach of urban design2. The changing idea of household and domesticity in contemporary Chinese rural families materialised by their family houses, and how this on-going shift is related, on the one hand, to the associational relationships embedded in Chinese rurality, and on the other, to larger global discussions of intergenerational living, social networks of care and alternative social relationships beyond the family norm.
Current and recent research
British Academy research project (2018–2019):
Collective Forms: Neighbourhood Transformation, Spatialised Governmentality and New Communities in China [PI: Dr. Sam Jacoby]
My role: key member of the project team (fieldwork, case study analysis, project report and publications); project coordinator (a series of symposia and workshops in China and London).
This research examines how social projects, spaces, and realities shape three contexts critical to understanding urban design and planning in China: modes of governmentality; the history of collective spatial development models in relation to current community development; and socio-spatial changes in urban and rural developments. A comparative analysis of community developments in China and a programme of knowledge exchange will study how a national collectivisation in the 1950s created rural people’s commune and urban work unit systems that laid the foundations to today’s urban problems. Their socio-spatial design, despite extensive policy reforms since 1978, continue to control access to public infrastructures and services, but also created resilient governance and community-building models.
The effects of spatial transformations of governmentality are little researched by urban designers and require a new interdisciplinary approach that offers alternatives to Western-centric theory and practice. This is of global relevance, including the UK and its new community-led developments.
PhD work (2014–2018):
Territory, Settlement, Household: A Project of Rural China
[Supervisors: Dr. Pier Vittorio Aureli, Dr. Sam Jacoby]
The thesis recognises the countryside as a specific social, cultural and political construct rather than as ancillary to the city. It challenges current strategies of rural regeneration in China, which heavily rely on models of urbanisation, as well as the prevailing mentality that views the countryside as not just economically but also culturally and intellectually under-developed. The key research question is thus: what does being rural mean socio-spatially?
Structured by three main studies of the rural-urban relationship, the cross-scalar framework and research by design, the thesis explores ‘rurality’ as a spatial question at the levels of territory, settlement and household. In the studies, the case study method, fieldwork and drawing play essential roles.
Based on the understanding of rurality as an elastic form of association in both social and spatial terms and across scales, the thesis advocates a shift in design thinking for the rural and proposes the integration of planning, urban design and architecture, in order to create one synthetic design discipline capable of facilitating an alternative multi-scalar rural regeneration model. The aim of this discipline is to create opportunities of change in the recognised and established field of power and is in this sense political.