Earlier this year a group of eight UON architecture students accompanied professors Lindsay and Kerry Clare to Guangzhou. The project was working in collaboration with South China University of Technology (SCUT) on the restoration of six heritage listed terrace houses.
Over the ten days the students worked in groups, envisaging the future use and restoration for the heritage buildings. The experience of working in a different environment and context brought many challenges, as well as new knowledge shared amongst the students of the two universities. Together the students produced a range of concepts for the reuse, such as; a boutique movie theatre, hostel, a traditional tea house, a cultural centre, a photography studio, a maker space / flee market, a multi use retail (florist, pottery, housing) and a community centre.
The students expressed that Lindsay and Kerry brought interesting insight into passive heating and cooling which were new approaches to the SCUT students. Sharing the importance of gentle hands on site. A respect to the preservation of history, not just as a tourist attraction but also for the local people of the area.
"The most interesting discovery was the notion of heritage has only just been introduced back into China. It has become into "fashion" again. It is remarkable especially on the scale of city of Guangzhou." - UON student D'arcy Dupe
Along with completing the coursework, throughout the trip they spent the time discovering the city. Taking the opportunity to check out some architectural precedents, such as the Red Tory adaptive reuse of a canned tin factory and the Opera House by Zaha Hadid. The SCUT students showed their visitors the town, where to get amazing food and hot spots. The students returned with many exciting tales and adventures, even one about eating a whole goose!
Guangzhou is a destination many would not think of to visit for a holiday, but being slightly off the beaten track it revealed a glimpse into China's true character. A density and culture that the many of the Newcastle students would have not experienced before. Many found the vast development, growth and scale of which the city has grown confronting. The overall experience giving them new eyes to what architecture of the future might be and informing their own design ambitions.