School of Architecture, CUHK

Black Book 2015-16

Message from the Director

This past year has witnessed several successes for our School of Architecture, among them: unconditional revalidations of our professional accreditation by HKIA, CAA and RIBA; strong performance in research by our professors with RAE 2014 results and competitive research grants; and the ever-improving academic performances by our students including some outstanding projects from each year in both BSSc and MArch design studios. In fact, several complimentary and encouraging comments were received from invited external reviewers at our final design reviews, including prominent local practitioners and overseas professors from leading schools of architecture such as Cambridge, ETH-Zurich and Yale, among others.

In particular, the revalidation panel visits, which take place every five years, tend to reignite serious discussions about the relative roles and responsibilities of both academia and the profession in our field. Do architectural schools, including ours at CUHK, emphasize sufficiently the teaching of technical skills and knowledge in areas such as materials and construction, or environmental performance and sustainability? How are they addressed in the design studio projects, and how are their results assessed?

And, are communication skills – both written and verbal – being attained by our students at what would be expected as university standards? The American author Harper Lee attributed poor writing to “the lack of craftsmanship…the lack of sitting down and working a good idea into a gem of an idea. It takes time and patience and effort to turn out a work of art, and few people seem willing to go all the way.” I believe the same might be said about the design process – like good writing, designing is a commitment to crafting which, in turn, reveals new creative insights from its process.

To this end, we will continue to strengthen the purposeful alignment of design and research in all our teaching programmes at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, perhaps especially the professional MArch degree curriculum with Design Research Units (DRUs) providing more pedagogical focus and meaningful content to the M1 design studios and M2 thesis projects. Eventually, as architects, you will be expected to serve not only the profession but society as well – to design buildings and cities beautifully but also responsibly, with designs informed by research, users programmes, urban context and societal needs. As Oscar Wilde observed, “I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful.”


Prof. Nelson Chen, FAIA FRIBA FHKIA
Professor of Practice in Architecture
Director, School of Architecture
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

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