RMIT University
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Deep Design For Empathetic Architecture: Negotiating Hyper Complexities During China's Rapid Urbanisation

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posted on 2024-06-26, 04:59 authored by Yan Gao
This is a practice -based PhD research that seeks to reflect on the 10 Years of work and the evolution of my practice iDEA in parallel with the rapid development of contemporary Chinese architecture. My doctoral research delves into the intellectual and creative foundations of my practice to articulate a new design approach: Deep Design for Empathetic Architecture. This method accentuates the role of design thinking and its corresponding operations, centering on formulating strategies based on inherent propensities, existing events, and fundamental spatial relationships of each project. By embracing this method, innovative design concepts can be carefully cultivated and tailored to effectively address future uncertainties throughout the lifespan of the architecture. My PhD research is focused on three projects that serve as exemplars illustrating a method of contextualizing contemporary architectural practice in China while also capturing the evolution of architecture reflective of Chinese culture, politics, and changing social dynamics. This study employed RMIT's research methodologies, transitioning from Master's to PhD, involving detailed mappings in Chapter 1 and Appendix 1, critical reflections in Chapter 2, and practical application in Chapter 3 across a curated selection of projects developed in response to the exigencies of China's rapid urbanization. The research promotes Empathetic Architecture, focusing on human interaction, experiential movement, and fostering positive behaviours. Positioning my practice within the Chinese architects community that I directly engage with, Chapter 4 identifies the values and aspirations derived from diverse experiences, spanning from experimental design in UK, the hands-on knowledge of vernacular architecture in China, to the collaborations with various international and domestic firms (Chapter 5). This exploration culminates with the predication of my future practice in Chapter 6. The trajectory of my Ph.D. marks a pivotal shift in my design practice, transitioning from implicit design intuition to explicit design thinking, encapsulated within iDEA as interdisciplinary Design for Empathetic Architecture. This research not only nurtures a culture of creativity within my practice but also serves as a catalyst for inspiring colleagues to embrace the profound methodologies of Deep Design. Finally, the articulation of Deep Design aims to offer a theoretical framework for the seemingly pragmatic design community in China (Appendix 2). It strives to define diversified prototypes (Appendix 3), enabling architects to creatively explore new conceptual and formal possibilities amidst the hyper complexities in China's contemporary architecture.


Degree Type

Doctorate by Research


© Yan Gao 2024

School name

Architecture & Urban Design, RMIT University