We braved Beijing’s rush hour to walk to the Stanford Center at Peking University this morning. There was even more activity on the streets compared to yesterday—longer lines of cars, bigger crowds of bikes and pedestrians. We arrived at the Stanford Center, which sits in a quiet corner of the PKU campus, otherwise known as 北大 in local parlance. It’s built as a fusion of Eastern and Western architecture—a traditional Chinese 四合院 courtyard at ground level, with two stories of modern offices, lounges, meeting rooms and a sunlit atrium underneath.
There’s a height restriction in this area because the 圓明園 Gardens are nearby, so Stanford decided to drill down and expand underground instead. The funds for this center were contributed by a number of Stanford alumni, and a variety of programs such as the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Business rent offices in order to use the space. (Sorry, no free lunch.) While inside, we also visited the Highly Immersive Classroom (HIC), the room where we had so many of our teleconference exchange sessions.
We had a full day today in the Chinese capital. Our first stop: Tsinghua University, where we met with Professor Fu Zhiyong at the Academy of Art & Design (清華大學美術學院). The Academy building houses programs in everything from graphic art to industrial design, and includes studio space for artists, media labs, and the classroom for our workshop.
For today at least, the sky was blue beyond belief—a true rarity in this city. The sky above Beijing is usually a murky grey, but you couldn’t tell it by the swirls of white clouds against the cerulean backdrop overhead. (As Deland put it, “It’s deceptively nice out.”) It seems we brought the Californian sunshine with us, lending the day a pleasant, golden sheen.
The Forbidden City (紫禁城)
After a quick lunch of noodles, we traveled by bus to the heart of Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. We walked through the massive plaza, where tourists (Chinese and foreign) intermingle with uniformed guards and plainclothes policemen. The role of the public square as a political symbol was clear. “Do people dance on the square?” one student asked. “No, they do not!” the tour guide hastily replied.
Coming from far corners of the globe, we have all made it to Beijing! Workshop participants journeyed from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santiago, Shanghai, Seoul, and rural Kyrgyzstan—bringing with them great tales of travel.
It was wonderful seeing all the students gathered in the arrivals lobby of the airport, catching up and swapping summer stories. The atmosphere was electric! After a celebratory dinner, we checked into the hotel for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, we will be hitting the streets of Beijing to start our urban adventures.
Welcome to Designing the Human City, a joint workshop spotlighting sustainable urbanization, sponsored by Stanford University and Tsinghua University.
From September 7-21, workshop participants will observe neighborhoods in Beijing, meet with local experts (in fields ranging from energy efficient architecture to transportation), and produce an exhibition for the Beijing Design Week expo on Smart Cities.
Many of the workshop participants are alumni of the International Urbanization Seminar at Stanford, or will be joining the seminar at the end of September. After the workshop, teams on both sides of the Pacific will continue working on projects throughout the fall—an example of continuing cross-cultural collaboration.
Please stay tuned to this site for updates along the way. We are excited to share our journey with you!
A project of the International Urbanization Seminar