Cultural Innovation and Critical Practice Research Lab

Cultural Innovation and Critical Practice Research Lab

We research the concepts, categories and tools which 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.

We believe close-readings of architecture and the city reveal the latent character of non-neutral and highly specific cultural vehicles. Amidst 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 re-built to include critical practices which innovate upon, critique, and re-evaluate those fragments. Our research aims at opening possibilities for fruitful working relationships in this new field.

We use theory and practice as a mode of inquiry to collectively engage with the learned and embodied cultural unconscious. Our scholarship and breadth of projects and partnerships are supported by local, national, and international funding, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. By hosting workshops, seminars, and exhibitions the Lab cultivates open academic discussions and broadens the research impact through its network to advance the endeavors of its members and partners.

As a research focus of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), 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.


Core Areas

  • trans-cultural and trans-disciplinary design
  • social and ethnographic research through case studies
  • place-specific and culture-specific semiotics
  • architectural production and criticism

Selected Publications and Practice-Based Research

  • Brillhart, Adam, Garrabost Jayalakshmi, Gisela Loehlein (2021) The Changing Rural Habitat: Longshang Museum of Handicraft Paper: Celebrating a Way of Life, Documentary Film commissioned by Aga Khan Trust for Culture (project completion date: 01-Apr-2022)
  • Brillhart, Adam (2019). The Emotions of Construction Organization. In Wang Shu, ed. Emotional Structures – Experimental Architecture Teaching Series. Hangzhou: China Academy of Art Press. (Peer-Reviewed); ISBN: 978-7550319660; published 30-Jun-2019.
  • Hay, Richard, Gisela Loehlein (2021) ed. Zhang Li. Yuan-er a courtyard-ology: from the mega to the micro. Hebei Education Press. pp. 62-63; ISBN: 978-7-5545-7052-4
  • Quiroga, Sofia (2021). Kowloon Walled City: The Social Vision of an Autoregulated Living Organism. In International Proceedings UIA 2021 RIO: 27th World Congress of Architects, ACSA Press, (Peer-Reviewed); pp. 473-478. ISBN: 978-1-944214-31-9
  • Brillhart, Adam and Ken Yeung (2019). Co-Operating with Notational Language: Full-Scale Drawing Practices of Traditional Carpentry in Southern China. In Amy Kulper, ed. BLACK BOX: Articulating Architecture’s Core in the Post-Digital Era. ACSA Press, (Peer-Reviewed); pp. 547-554; ISBN: 978-1-944214-21-0
  • Podda, Roberto, Laura Daglio and Giuseppe Boi (2019). Participated strategies for small towns regeneration. The Case of Oliena (Nu) Historic Centre. In Stefano Della Torre, Sara Cattaneo and Camilla Lenzi, eds. Regeneration of the Built Environment from a Circular Economy Perspective, 89–98. Cham: Springer (peer reviewed; ISBN: 978-3-030-33255-6; published 09-Jan-2020).
  • Brillhart, Adam (PI), Yiping, Dong, Thomas Fischer, Shuigen G Paperless drawing method and vernacular tectonic, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Key Program Special Fund. RMB 200,000. Project Code: KSF-E-49. 2020–2023.

Lab Coordinator

Field trip explores architecture, space, and culture in Torrão, Portugal

11 Apr 2024
Field trip explores architecture, space, and culture in Torrão, Portugal

Tea Time Talk: Reflections on barrier-free environment and architectural design

10 Apr 2024
Tea Time Talk: Reflections on barrier-free environment and architectural design

Ice-ray patterns: a rediscovery of past design for the future

19 Mar 2024
Ice-ray patterns: a rediscovery of past design for the future