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Building birthday bash at CUHK

Published on Friday, 07 Dec 2012
Assistant Professor Marisa Yiu (front row, far left) and delegates at the CUHK School of Architecture symposium.
Photo: CUHK

It was a very special birthday celebration, with deans and professors from 20 of the world's top architectural schools attending to share insights and mark a milestone of sorts.

"In Hong Kong, we have so many fascinating issues to tackle - from cultural heritage to infrastructural connectivity to China," said Assistant Professor Marisa Yiu of the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

"If we can really re-examine how architectural education is taught and learned within the context of the school - to make students more aware socially and environmentally - we can actually help shape the future of the city's housing or even social development," she added.

With this in mind, Yiu spearheaded a symposium focusing on innovations in architectural teaching and learning in Asia.

The conference, which was also a way of celebrating the 20th year of CUHK's School of Architecture and its new home, saw delegates assemble from schools based in Europe, US, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

"It was a challenge to get all these incredible people inside one room to have a focused moment to share," Yiu said. "They have very diverse backgrounds. In one sense, we were hoping to sample the trends of today around the world and project that to the future."

The event was conceptualised as a platform for summarising past lessons, proposing new strategies, and learning from other architectural schools.

Four topics were compressed within the almost two-day schedule, with panels of speakers, moderators and respondents dissecting each topic, and the audience voicing questions and reactions.

"We wanted to involve not only the deans and professors of the schools but also practitioners and people involved in local institutional academic development. That mix is quite special," Yiu said.

"It is not often that conferences are built this way, with a keynote speaker with a lot of experience, and smaller discussions and presentations. Diversity was really important. You're not just passively sitting in the audience trying to learn from two or three people. You're getting a taste of the critical position from each of the speakers," Yiu said.

Personally inspired by the speakers - some of whom, including Dean Mark Wigley of Columbia University, were her former professors - Yiu took on the conference as a personal mission. "I see it also as advocacy to build bigger and better educational dialogue in Asia. It's a matter of learning from others, reflecting on our own and then building a better collaborative model," she said.

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