«Transnational China» Research Curriculum

Within DASP, Ph.D. Program in Architecture. History and Design. Politecnico di Torino



Research Objectives and Topics

Funded Research Programs Involving DASP Ph.D. Students

International Network and Exchange Programs

Scientific production

We look for talented candidates



                             There is nowhere else in the world where architectural theory can leap into practice with so little time lag.
                                                                                                                                                                          Deyan Sudjic

Architecture and urban issues in contemporary China, due to their impressive development, have been increasingly attracting attention in the international debate. Today they are one of the fields of studies which characterizes the scientific interests and the identity of the DASP – Ph.D. Program in Architecture. History and Designat the Department of Architecture and Design of Politecnico di Torino.

In the last years, an increasing number of Professors and Ph.D. researchers have been developing works on the architecture and urbanism of contemporary China, with a growing relation with international partners and other Ph.D. Programs at PoliTo, such as Urban and Regional Development (Department DIST).

Currently, six Ph.D. theses on China are in progress at DASP + two in collaboration with the Urban Ph.D. Program. (Thesis Abstracts )

A deep-rooted international collaboration is a crucial base-tool for «Transnational China» DASP researches. Well-established bases are at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Southeast University in Nanjing, while a long-term collaboration is established on such topics with École Polytechnique Fédérale del Lausanne (EPFL).

Moreover, in May 2015 the South China-Torino Collaboration Lab was established in Guangzhou, as a joint project between Politecnico di Torino and South China University of Technology (SCUT). The Laboratory is designed to be a multidisciplinary platform in South China where Research, Education and Design can combine their best skills and resources. Several Ph.D. candidates, from both universities, are already involved in the Lab’s research.


  • China Room, Castello del Valentino, Politecnico di Torino: a research lab hosting some 10 professors and Ph.D. Students, including a small library and an archive on China Urbanization and Architecture.


Research Objectives and Topics

Ph.D. concluded dissertations and ongoing works share some common objectives which contribute to shape the “China Curriculum” identity within the DASP Ph.D. program.

A key research-question is whether is it possible for a critical knowledge, produced by academic investigations, to become ‘performative’ and stimulate real effects on the Chinese urban environment.

The results are contributing to the incremental construction of a sino-european work team, focused on the need of a know-how flow from one country to the other. Within this operative context, Ph.D. researches are focused on exchange of models, practices and methods between China and the global world, based on 3 main issues:

  • Urban regenerationas an inclusive process, able to attract different disciplines and to organize them into a system, offering an alternative prospect to the rigid breakdown of the design process in use in China; Architectural design as negotiation, able to lead different actors to an agreement around the forms, with the possibility of influencing the innovation of processes and governance.
  • Reflections on alternative models of modernity, intended as a tool to question contemporary processes of rapid urbanization and lack of identity in the Chinese and global context.
  • Urban morphology and Urban economics, with the aim of transferring into Chinese design questions the European typo-morphological approach to urban design, finding China's contemporary culture, society and economy the chance to improve and re-new that approach.


Funded Research Programs Involving DASP Ph.D. Students (update March 2017)

Some Ph.D. students from DASP are actively involved in international research programs based at Polito, in particular:

  • Chinese New Towns: negotiating citizenship and physical form (Politecnico di Torino, Tsinghua University, EPFL). December 2015 - December 2017. (link)
  • Understanding the "Future Cities" and their Surroundings: Urban Design, Urban History and Urban Economics between Europe and Asia (Politecnico di Torino, DAD / Southeast University Nanjing, School of Architecture). July 2016 – ongoing.
  • Mapping controversial memories in the historic urban landscape: a multidisciplinary study of Beijing, Mexico City and Rome (Politecnico di Torino, Tsinghua University, EPFL). January 2015 – April 2017. (link)
  • Memory | Regeneration. Sino-Italian Research Platform (Politecnico di Torino, Tsinghua University). November 2013 - May 2015 (concluded).


International Network and Exchange Programs

The DASP’s “Urban and Rural China” curriculum has developed a grounded international network, able to offer research tools and challenging collaboration opportunities to its students.

The rising of that network was linked to several agreements led by Polito professors with different universities in China since 2006 and overall in eight incoming Ph.D. China Scholarships Council (CSC), developed during the years 2010/2016 in the Architecture and Building Design Ph.D. Program at Polito, which later became part of the DASP Program.

Currently, DASP students and Polito professors regularly collaborate with South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, Tsinghua University in Beijing and Southeast University in Nanjing.

Besides the establishment of the South China-Torino Collaboration Lab,an agreement with South China University of Technology for a Double Degree Ph.D. Program was signed in April 2016. Three DASP students are currently, involved in this program.

Moreover, till now, 3 outgoing and 2 incoming Erasmus+ scholarships have been assigned for mobility exchanges between Chinese partners and DASP.

A Joint Ph.D. program with Tsinghua University is under construction.

Professors Zhang Li from Tsinghua (Visiting Professor of the DASP in 2017) and Florence Graezer Bideau (renewed China scholar from EPFL) are member of the DASP international board.


Scientific production

Since 2015 DASP Ph.D. candidates authored more than 20 publications about Chinese architecture and city, including articles in international magazines.

Here a selected list: (Selected publications )

In the same period they participated to the international debate presenting their research activities in international conferences and seminaries in universities such EPFL in Lausanne and ENSAPB in Paris. Here a selected list: (Selected conferences )

DASP Ph.D. candidates organized or co-curated relevant events in China, taking part in 2014, 2015, 2016 Beijing Design Week editions, curating exhibitions and debates supported by the Italian Culture Institute of the Italian Embassy in Beijing. In addition they coordinated the organization of the first Urban Design Day, a Sino-Italian meeting held at SCUT in Guangzhou in January 2016, promoted by the Lab and the Italian Consulate General.


DASP Professors involved in the “Urban and Rural China” research curriculum

Supervisors for this research curriculum are: Gustavo Ambrosini, Michele Bonino (coordinator), Filippo De Pieri, Giovanni Durbiano, Francesca Frassoldati, Marco Trisciuoglio.


We look for talented candidates

Ph.D. Students to be involved in this curriculum are expected to have an international CV, proving their ability to work within a global environment. In order to take part in the Lab’s applied researches, both theory/history or design oriented competencies are appreciated. The knowledge of Chinese language is not compulsorily required, but it would be a valuable qualification. Instead, the availability to spend 12 months in China along their Ph.D. program is a basic requirement for all applicants. The subject of the research and its methodology will be agreed between the student and the supervisor.

See http://dottorato.polito.it/en/home for further instruction about enrollment.

CSC (China Scholarship Council) candidates are crucial for the DASP Ph.D. program and welcome to apply.

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