11.952 | Spring 2005 | Graduate

Gaoming Studio - China


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: Two sessions / week, 3 hours / session


The studio will focus on the district of Gaoming, located in the northwest of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) - the fastest growing and most productive region of China. Gaoming is one of the districts within the Foshan Municipality, which has a total population of about 5.5 million. Foshan Municipality is a rapidly developing urban area that will assume an important role as the PRD continues to integrate economically and socially. A new role for the integrated Delta is emerging after its recent designation by the Central Government as the economic engine for a large part of Southern China consisting of nine provinces and two Special Administrative Regions.

The District has recently completed a planning effort in which several design institutes and a Hong Kong planning firm prepared ideas for a new central area near the river. The class will complement these efforts by focusing on planning and design options on the waterfront of the proposed new district and ways of integrating water/hydrological factors into all aspects and land uses of a modern city (residential, commercial, industrial) - including watershed and natural ecosystem protection, economic and recreational activities, transportation, and tourism.


Gaoming District has been historically an agricultural area with green rolling hills and paddy fields. It is located on the West branch of the Pearl River with water access to all of the major cities in the Delta and inland to Guangxi. It has only started to industrialize after Liberation with mostly light industries such as textile and garment plants.

Gaoming District has a population of about 250,000 with a planned doubling of its size in the next few decades to fulfill its role in the on-going urbanization of Foshan Municipality and the PRD. The district is presently engaged in planning for and defining its future as a balanced city with industry and agriculture while maintaining a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmental quality. It is acutely aware of the environmental degradation that has taken place in the rapid industrialization of the cities in the eastern PRD and wants to plan the city so that it learns from the earlier mistakes.

Project Objectives

  • Evaluate the potential for a sustainable approach to developing Gaoming new central district as a Model Water City.
  • Establish a process for creating design ideas and guidelines for planning a city based on water and hydrology as the unifying element.
  • Engage in a holistic approach, addressing such issues as recreation, transportation, ecology, economic development and community development.


The studio’s pedagogic objective is to introduce students from different backgrounds to the issues that can be addressed through good design and planning, as well as to techniques and values that must be engaged in that task. Beyond this educational purpose, there is also a wider important public objective attached to the studio. Typically, there has been a concerted effort to stimulate public understanding and debate about a current design or policy issue in that locale. Thus, the studio will work with clients, including officials of Gaoming District and planning consultants who can benefit from the proposals that the studio generates. Student teams will produce design and policy recommendations including methods of implementation.

The Studio’s objectives include:

  • To compile an extensive inventory of the features that affect the site and the given problem.
  • To analyze these factors to assess the opportunities and constraints that the site and the surrounding area afford.
  • To engage in meaningful teamwork and establish a process for peer evaluation.
  • To generate design and planning concepts.
  • To produce final design and planning schemes and a report on the options for Gaoming District.
  • To participate in feedback and debriefing through public presentations and reports.


The District of Gaoming and Foshan Municipality.