Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Dr Jingru (Cyan) Cheng

Info

  • Dr Jingru (Cyan) Cheng
  • Area

    School of Architecture

    Role

    Tutor and Postdoctoral Research Associate

  • Jingru (Cyan) Cheng is Tutor in MA Architecture (ADS7) and Postdoctoral Research Associate  in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art. Her research interests lie in the intersections between architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China. 

  • Biography

  • Cyan obtained both PhD by Design (2018) and M.Phil Projective Cities (2014) at the Architectural Association (AA) and was the co-director of AA Wuhan Visiting School 2016–17. 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 RIBA President’s Awards for Research commendation (2018).  

    Cyan recently authored ‘乡’ (Chinese rurality) in AA Files 76 (2019) and co-edited the special journal issue ‘Collective Forms in China’ for New Architecture (2018), and her forthcoming publications include ‘The Architecture of China’s People Commune’ in The Journal of Architecture and a co-edited book The Socio-spatial Design of Community and Governance (Springer / Tongji University Press). Cyan’s work has been exhibited internationally, such as in the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (2019), Venice Architecture Biennale (2018) and Beijing Design Week (2016), as well as in the Architectural Association as a long-term exhibit (2019-20), and widely presented, for example at Columbia University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Westminster, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University, National Historical Museum of Sweden and Green-Door Festival of Rural Architecture and Design, Ireland.  

    Cyan has established research and teaching collaborations between the UK and China through organising joint research 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. 

    Show more
  • Practice

    • Design consultancy on the regeneration project of Miaosan Community, Wuhan, P. R. China (2018–on-going)
    • HUST Model Workshop, commissioned by School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST); construction completed in 2014.
  • External collaborations

  • Governments

    • Wuhan City of Design (UNESCO title), China
    • Hongmei Sub-District Government, Shanghai, China

    Universities

    • Tsinghua University (School of Architecture), China
    • Huazhong University of Science and Technology (School of Architecture and Urban Planning), China
    • Wuhan University (School of Sociology), China
    • London Confucius Institute, SOAS, London, UK

    Public Platforms/Media

    • China Design Centre, London, UK
    • The Global School, Beijing, China
    • New Architecture, China
    • Urban Flux, China
    • Formosa Salon, London, UK
    Show more
  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Journal Articles and Conference Papers (selected)

    • Cheng, J. (2020) ‘Associational Relationship, Collective Space, and Community Design: The Socio-Spatial Infrastructures of Urban Communities in China’. In Jacoby, S. and Cheng, J. eds. The Socio-Spatial Design of Community and Governance: Interdisciplinary Urban Design in China. Springer / Tongji University Press. [forthcoming]
    • Cheng, J. (2020) ‘The Architecture of China’s People’s Commune: From the Poster of the Hongqi People’s Commune’. The Journal of Architecture. [forthcoming] 
    • Cheng, J. (2019) ‘乡’ (Chinese Rurality). AA Files, 76, pp. 184-188.
    • 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.
    • Jacoby, S. and Cheng, J. (2018) ‘Collective Forms in China: People’s Commune and Danwei’.  New Architecture, 180, pp. 5-11.
    • 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’, Buildings in Society International III conference, Stockholm, Sweden, May 2017.
    • Cheng, J. (2017) ‘A Territorial Project: “Building A New Socialist Countryside” in China’,  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’, 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’, 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. 

    Books and Journal Special Issues

    • Jacoby, S. and Cheng, J. eds. (2020) The Socio-Spatial Design of Community and Governance: Interdisciplinary Urban Design in China. Springer / Tongji University Press. [forthcoming] 
    • Jacoby, S., Cheng, J. and Tan, G., eds. (2018) ‘Collective Forms in China: A Contemporary Review’, special issue of New Architecture, 180.
    • Cheng, J. (2018) Territory, Settlement, Household: A Project of Rural China. (PhD by Design Dissertation, Architectural Association)
    • Cheng, J. and Qiao, J. ed. (2015) ‘XL in S’, Remarks section of Urban Flux, 41–42. 
    • Cheng, J. and Qiao, J. eds. (2014) ‘iArchitect’, Remarks section of Urban Flux, 40. 
    • Cheng, J. (2014) Hukou Reform as Urban Reform: Cellular and Network Developments. (M.Phil Dissertation, Architectural Association)

    Invited Presentations and Seminars (selected)

    The ‘Ripple Effect’ of Domesticity: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China [Talk series in Greater Bay Area, China]
    Invited presentation at Incremental Urbanism [symposium + workshop], School of Architecture, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, China, May 2019
    Invited presentation at Adapting Villages [symposium + workshop], School of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. May 2019

    Structured Ambiguity: Scroll Drawing as a Synthesis of Research  
    Invited presentation at Representations/Investigations: Media in Architecture, the Territory and the Urban [symposium], Architectural Association, London, UK, April 2019

    Home: A Project of Rural China [Talk series in London, UK]
    Guest lecture, Department of Architecture, University of Westminster, London, UK, March 2019
    Projective Cities guest seminar, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, February 2019
    History & Theory seminar, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, UK, February 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, December 2018.

    Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China
    Invited presentation at Domestic Frontiers [symposium], Architectural Association, London, UK, November 2018.

    China’s People’s Commune and the Everyday Practice
    Invited presentation at Collective Forms: The Chinese Neighbourhood Unit [symposium], Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, September 2018

    The Social-Spatial Design of Rurality
    Guest seminar at Projective Cities Programme, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, February 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, September 2017

    Transformation of Chinese Family and Housing Typologies
    Guest seminar at Architectural Association Tropicality Visiting School, Vietnam, August 2016

    Deterritorialization and Reterritorialization of Chinese Rural Society
    Invited presentation at Urban-Rural Regeneration @ Beijing Design Week [symposium], Beijing, China, October 2015

    Hukou Reform as Urban Reform
    Invited Presentation at Architecture and City @ China Design Centre [symposium], London, UK, July 2014

    Organised Symposia and Exhibitions (selected)

    Coordinator/Convenor/Curator, Collective Forms in China event series 

    Collective Forms in China [exhibition]
    At Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Korea, Sept–Nov 2019

    Spatialised Governmentality: China and the Global Context [symposium + roundtables]
    At Royal College of Art, London, UK, 6–7 December 2018

    Collective Forms: The Chinese Neighbourhood Unit [symposium + workshop]
    A Joint Event by Royal College of Art, Tsinghua University, The Global School and MAT Office
    At Tsinghua University and Leping Foundation, Beijing, China, 8–10 September 2018

    Collective Forms in China: New Communities [symposium + workshop]
    A Joint Event by Royal College of Art, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and New Architecture
    At Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 3–4 July 2018

    Collective Forms in China [exhibition]
    At Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy, May–November 2018

    Architectural Urbanism: Interdisciplinary Urban Design Challenges [roundtables]
    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, China, 10 December 2017

    Socio-Spatial Design and the Transformation of Urban-Rural China [symposium]
    A Joint Event by Architectural Association, Royal College of Art and Shanghai Jiao Tong University
    At Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China, 9 December 2017

    Collectives and Housing in China II [symposium]
    A Joint Event by Architectural Association and Huazhong University of Science and Technology
    At Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 27 August 2017

    Collective Forms in China [exhibition]
    At Beijing International Design Week, Beijing, China, September–October 2016

    Collectives and Housing in China I [symposium]
    A Joint Event by Architectural Association and Huazhong University of Science and Technology
    At Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 14 August 2016

    Coordinator/Convenor, ACROSS event series 

    Fire, Smoke, Roasted Beast [crowdfunded public event]
    The first-ever Lunar New Year event at the AA
    At Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, February 2019

    Home [symposium]
    In collaboration with London Confucius Institute
    At School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, UK, February 2016

    To Our Dear Countryside – Dialogues and Dreams [symposium]
    In collaboration with Formosa Salon
    At University College London, London, UK, June 2015

    iArchitect [roundtables]
    At China Design Centre, London, UK, October 2014

    Other Symposia and Exhibitions

    Structured Ambiguity: Scroll Drawing as a Synthesis of Research [solo work, long-term exhibition]
    At Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, June 2019 – June 2020

    Co-Organiser, Domestic Frontiers [symposium]
    At Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, 30 November 2018

    Invited Contributor, Home, Sweet Home [exhibition]
    At Shanghai Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China, November 2017 – March 2018

    Invited Contributor, China House Vision 99+1 [exhibition]
    At Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Shanghai, China, March 2016

    Invited Contributor, Baitaisi Remade [exhibition]
    At Beijing Design Week, Beijing, China, October 2015

    Selected Contributor, AA Graduate Honours Exhibition
    At Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK, 2014

    Show more
  • Awards and Grants

    • 2018, RIBA President’s Awards for Research – Commendation
    • 2017, Great Britain-China Educational Trust – Chinese Student Award
    • 2017, Henry Lester Trust Grant
    • 2017, RIBAJ’s Eye Line – Shortlist 
    • 2015–17, Architectural Association PhD Travel and Research Awards (five times)
    • 2015–17, Architectural Association PhD Bursary
    • 2014, Architectural Association Director’s Selection – M.Phil Thesis
    • 2012, Bachelor Thesis Award of Hubei Province, China
    • 2008, National Scholarship of China

Selected work

Research

Research interests

The intersections between architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China; Methods of design research, cross-scalar framework and architectural ethnography. 

Recent research directions include:  

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 design. 

2. 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. 

3. How a scroll drawing can be developed as a synthesis of research and a means of argumentation in architecture, the approach of which may be termed as ‘structured ambiguity’ 

4. Architectural education in the rural 

Current and recent research

British Academy research project (2018–19):

Collective Forms: Neighbourhood Transformation, Spatialised Governmentality and New Communities in China 

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. 

[PI: Dr. Sam Jacoby]

[My role: key member of the project team and project coordinator; responsibilities include project preparation, conducting the project, organising public events both in China and the U. K., managing project finance and delivering the final report, publications and exhibitions.]

PhD work (2014–18):

Territory, Settlement, Household: A Project of Rural China

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 for change in the recognised and established field of power and is in this sense political.

[Supervisors: Dr. Pier Vittorio Aureli, Dr. Sam Jacoby]

Structured Ambiguity: Scroll Drawing as a Synthesis of Research (2015–on-going)

The project explores how a scroll drawing can be developed as a synthesis of research and a means of argumentation in architecture, the approach of which may be termed as ‘structured ambiguity’. Derived from traditional Chinese painting, the working hypothesis consists of three principal ideas and methods: juxtaposition, movement and time, and architecture as frame. This approach has been tested out both in my PhD study on rural China and in the research on Collective Forms in China. Outcomes have been exhibited at Beijing Design Week (2016), Venice Architecture Biennale (2018) and Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (2019), as well as in the Architectural Association School of Architecture as a as a long-term exhibit (2019–20).