China Megacities Lab

Research Labs + Centers

Fall 2012 + Spring 2013

Jeffrey Johnson, director

Over the past 30 years, China has experienced urban growth at an unprecedented rate. This trend is expected to continue. In the next two decades China’s urban population is expected to grow by 350 million inhabitants, raising the total number of cities over 1 million from 160 to approximately 220. Some of these cities may reach populations of over 25 million people while others will form huge multi-city urban agglomerations.

For China Megacities Lab, the contemporary Chinese city provides a portal into how the world’s future urban landscape might be formed. Through intensive ‘in-the-field’ research, the lab utilizes two key methods—critical reflection and projective speculation. The outcome of each project is not a set of recommendations, but rather critical questions that can guide our investigation of both the contemporary city and the city of the future.

Future of the Museum in China, 2012 + 2013 Summer Workshop

Concurrent with China’s rapid urbanization is a museum building boom which is producing an average of approximately 100 new museums a year across the country, with even greater numbers most recently. These often iconic structures act as landmarks for newly planned government and civic centers, CBD’s, cultural districts, and even in some cases, residential and commercial developments, symbolizing the value of culture in the identity of a new China. With this proliferation of new museums, are there trends that can be identified that might mark a paradigm shift in how the museum project is defined? Are there new roles–-socially, culturally, politically–-that the museum is playing? And what new architectural forms and spatial organizations are being invented to accommodate these new ambitions? China Megacities Lab initiated the research with a summer workshop at Studio-X Beijing in 2012.

Urban Space in China, 2012 + 2013 Summer Workshop

What is public space? And, what is public space in China? The joint international workshop, in collaboration with the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the office of URBANUS, attempted to answer these questions through investigating and analyzing the spaces that comprise, shape and form the public realm in the urban context of Beijing. Beijing was utilized as an urban laboratory with multiple sites of investigation. The research and analysis lead to an exercise of redefining design criteria for public space that was proposed for a master plan for a new high-tech development in Beijing.


The Megablock research project was initiated in the spring of 2008 and has continued into 2013. The Megablock is for China Megacities Lab a critical point of engagement with the Chinese city. The Megablock is both architecture and urbanism, and it provides the basic DNA for large-scale urban development in China. When it is at its best it can provide the framework and infrastructure to enable and encourage sustainable urban life. At its worst, its isolation and monotonous repetition can create dehumanizing conditions cut off from the city’s flows and experiences.

What is the future of the Megablock? How can the Megablock be conceived as a successful model for future urbanization? The idea, or concept, of the Megablock still has potential to inspire unique and radical urbanisms for the future. China Megacities Lab is currently working on a book project titled “China Megacities Lab Guide to Megablock Urbanisms” with a proposed launch in the Spring of 2014.

Future Possible A
Megablock Booklet B
China Lab Museum C