XJTLU Department of Architecture research undertakes the challenges of change in built environments at all scales.

The Department of Architecture conducts original research to produce new forms of knowledge and improve the sustainability of the urban environment and quality of life of its inhabitants. Our research strengths reflect a unique mix of multicultural academic and professional foundations from across the globe.

We carry out creative, innovative, and practice-based research projects to transform built and natural environments through our transdisciplinary focus. The combination of expertise from many disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture, construction, art, technology, AI, VR, digital fabrication, planning, and industrial and urban design maximises the impact of our research.

Practice-based research plays a fundamental role in the Department. Our research has significant impact and at the same time, critically informs by research-led teaching, the teaching methods of future generations of researchers and designers.

Our research is linked to other departments and research institutes at XJTLU, as well as to other Chinese universities. It fosters international collaborations and links to professionals outside traditional academia. Our academic staff also contribute to XJTLU research institutes and groups.

The XJTLU Architecture research strategy has a specific focus on digitalising design processes and workflows, as well as fostering the culture of digitally-driven research and teaching. The research from the Department of Architecture focuses on four areas represented by the following research labs:

  • Digital Design and Fabrication Lab (DDFL)
    Building Performance,
    Robotics and Fabrication,
    Virtual Experience
  • Urban and Landscape Ecologies Lab (ULEL)
  • Cultural Innovation and Critical Histories Research Lab (CICHL)
  • History, Theory and Heritage Research Lab (HTH)


The Digital Design and Fabrication Lab (DDFL)

The Digital Design and Fabrication Lab represents a platform for cross-disciplinary research that focuses on applying digital thinking, tools, and strategies in the field of architecture and design.

A seamless connection between the Lab and undergraduate and postgraduate programmes ensures knowledge transfer from scholars to students based on cutting-edge technologies and theories.

The Lab encompasses three main research areas: building performance, robotics and fabrication, and virtual experience. All areas are supported by the respective physical workshops and facilities.

The coordination of the three areas provides a comprehensive platform for exploring computational processes in architecture and design, integrating generation, simulation, evaluation, and fabrication of both physical and virtual outputs.


Urban and Landscape Ecologies Lab (ULEL)

The ULEL Urban and Landscape Ecologies Lab engages with current ecological concerns caused by the acceleration of contemporary urban and cultural landscape transformation processes. ULEL invites, promotes, and supports research, and engages with current matters through theoretical and practice-led projects producing new critiques and theories of design development and technology concerning social and environmental agendas.

There is an increasing interest in questions linking environment, urban landscape and design, bringing together urban ecology with eco-critical and cultural-ecological approaches by imagining the city as an indispensable part of the environment and as a place in which ecological problems emerge concretely. For ULEL, culture plays a fundamental role in being an active component within urban ecologies. For this reason, the city is, within this framework, both seen as an ecosystem and a cultural artefact.

ULEL investigates the consequences of climate and ecological change on community ecology in cities and identifies measures to maximise urban biodiversity for city users. ULEL explores urban landscape ecology, urban biodiversity conservation, and urban sustainability. Research is based on multiscale, sustainable, and interdisciplinary knowledge enhanced by new technologies.

ULEL research focuses on:

  • ecological-based urban regeneration strategies;
  • the effects of urbanisation on urban biodiversity;
  • edge effects in urban landscapes;
  • the ecological impacts of residential development patterns, and more broadly, environmental design in human-dominated landscapes; and
  • the improvement of habitat quality in urbanscapes.


Cultural Innovation and Critical Histories Research Lab (CICHL)

We research concepts, categories and tools that enable or transform design cultures and explore questions of newness/innovation, the transmission and continuation of cultural processes, and the plurality of meaning in the built environment.

We are engaged with speculative research, which attempts to elucidate the prescient situations that inform future design practices and allow them to critically connect with histories and cultures. Based in the historically significant city of Suzhou, the Lab operates through and fosters cross-cultural exchange at contemporary junctures of tradition and innovation, rural and urban, local and planetary.

We believe close readings of architecture and the city reveal the latent character of non-neutral and highly specific cultural vehicles. Amid the urban residuum of concepts inherited from history, and the historical density of the elements with which we work, the mythological worlds of cultures and communities which have been built up and shattered, must be rebuilt to include critical practices which innovate upon, critique, and re-evaluate those fragments or remains of previous cultural formations. Our research aims to open up possibilities for fruitful working relationships in this new field.

We use historical, philosophical, and theoretical inquiry to establish a cross-cultural mode of collective engagement. Our repertoire of research methods is heterogeneous. Our approach considers the learned embodied and cultural unconscious, qualitative and ethnographic research methods, visual analogies, minimal units of structural linguistics, forensic aspects of preservation, as well as tacit and intangible dimensions of cultural heritage.

Our scholarship and breadth of projects and partnerships are supported by local, national, and international funding. With international academic staff that have substantial and diversified backgrounds, together with students of all levels, the Lab operates at an inter-disciplinary level within and beyond our University.

Based in the Department of Architecture and the School of Design, the Lab aims, in line with XJTLU’s mandate, to create a bridge between Eastern and Western research practices and themes. It reflects the Department’s role as a navigator in this context, offering opportunities for campaigns at local, regional, and international levels.

By hosting workshops, seminars, and exhibitions, the Lab cultivates open academic discussions and broadens the research impact through its network to advance the endeavours of its members and partners.

The Cultural Innovation and Critical Histories Lab engages with projects that illuminate, connect, and innovate in the following core areas:

  • Histories and theories of architecture, design and associated arts;
  • Reflections on Chinese architecture, design and associated arts in a global context;
  • Transnational studies of architectural and design cultures;
  • Regeneration of built environments and related living heritages;
  • Conservation and restoration of historic buildings and landscapes;
  • Technologies of historical and built heritage research; and
  • Assessment, enhancement, and promotion of historical heritage in relation to tourism strategies (as in the case of World Heritage Sites).

Collaboration agreements and partnerships include:

World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for Asia and the Pacific Region (WHITR-AP), UN-Habitat, Aga Khan Development Network, Suzhou Garden Development Company, Wudu Think Tank, ARTS Group, and the Suzhou Cultural Relic Protection Institute.


Title: History Theory and Heritage Research Lab (HTH)

The History, Theory and Heritage (HTH) lab investigates the formation, evolution, analysis, interpretation, narration, conservation, and inheritance of the built environment. The research activities of HTH are variously presented with academic research projects, adaptive design, journal publications, conferences, workshops, installations, exhibitions, art performances, etc. The lab considers history, theory and heritage as three interrelated territories, across and within the boundaries of which new understanding can be generated.

The HTH lab is especially interested in the dynamics of the transnational process in the Asian architectural and urban history context and theorizes this process. The lab’s expertise spans from Urban History, Garden and landscape, Vernacular Architecture, Modern Architecture and Urbanism, Philosophy of Art/ Aesthetics, Critical theory, Embodied Cognition, Heritage Conservation, Architectural Criticism, Critical Heritage, Architectural Poetics, and Post-colonialism Studies. The HTH lab welcomes enquiries from doctoral research projects on these topics and efforts at cooperation from the university, research institute and public sectors.

The collaboration agreements and partnerships include WHITRAP-Suzhou, Suzhou Heritage Conservation Institute, Shanghai Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation, and the Sapienza University of Rome (under review).

Core Areas

  • transnational architecture history and theory
  • critical heritage studies with focus on Asian context
  • entangled modernities in architecture
  • the Suzhou garden as a method
  • hydraulic societies and settlements