Architecture in China: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Image of the Great Wall of China
Visit iconic buildings of historical and modern significance in multiple cities across Mainland China and Hong Kong. Students will be exposed to the juxtaposition of the traditional and modern in an exciting environment of growth and globalization.
Location: China
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Study historical and contemporary iconic buildings throughout Mainland China and Hong Kong.

China’s mass modernization and urbanization effort has created an interesting living lab for students of architecture, landscape and urbanism. The juxtaposition of traditional and modern architecture and the exciting yet challenging city growth offers students a unique opportunity to critically analyze the tension between deeply rooted culture, tradition, and unstoppable trends of globalization. Meanwhile, it allows students to develop comparative analysis to the Western counterparts. The Architecture in China program travels to Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong. Students will be exposed to both historical and contemporary iconic buildings. 

Students will spend approximately 6 days in Shanghai, 5 days in Hangzhou, 6 days in Beijing, and 4 days in Hong Kong.  Most of the study abroad program will consist of planned group activities along with some free time.

Shanghai (6 days): The program begins in Shanghai, an international mega-metropolis with a population of more than 23 million. It has been a center of commerce and arts between east and west since 1930s. Students will experience the interesting blend of tradition and modernity in Shanghai.

  1. Traditional architecture: The City God Temple, Yuyuan Garden.
  2. Traditional architecture: Shikumen Shanghai traditional townhouse, Xintiandi, Tianzifang
  3. Modern architecture: The Bund: Neoclassical HSBC Building, Art Deco: Park Hotel/ László Hudec Peace Hotel
  4. Lujiazui Commercial District: Shanghai Tower/Gensler (with access to the observation deck), Oriental Pearl Tower/Jiang HuanCheng, Jin Mao Tower/SOM, Shanghai World Financial Center/KRF
  5. People’s Park, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, Shanghai Grand Theatre/ARTE founded by French architect Jean-Marie Charpentier; Shanghai Museum/Xing Tonghe; and Nanjing Xi Pedistrian Street.
  6. The Shanghai World Expo: The Shanghai Art Museum,
  7. Shanghai Finance Center, The Art and Culture Center/Norman Foster+Partners and Thomas Heatherwick 

Students will also take excursion day trips to Suzhou.

Suzhou Students will visit Chinese traditional gardens including the Humble Administrators’ Garden, the Lingering Garden. After a walk along the Ping Jiang Road which is a revitalized ancient street, participants will visit Suzhou Museum by I.M.Pei.

Hangzhou (5 days):

  1. China Academy of Art Xiangshan Campus /Shu Wang
  2. China Academy of Art’s Folk Art Museum/Kengo Kuma & Associates
  3. China Museum Of Design Bauhaus Collection / Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira
  4. Zhejiang Art Museum / CCTN Design Taining Cheng
  5. Raffles City Hangzhou /UNStudio
  6. Liangzhu Village Cultural Art Center/ Tadao Ando and LiangZhu Museum/ David Chipperfield
  7. West lake, Xixi Wetland Park, Xixi Wetland Estate/David Chipperfield; Xixi Wetland Art Village/Wang Wenjen Architecture
  8. Zhejiang University Campus

Beijing (6 days):

  1. Temple of Heaven, Laoshe Tea House, Houhai
  2. Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, National Center for Performing Arts/Paul Andreu, and National Museum of China/GMP
  3. Summer Palace
  4. The Olympic Park, including Bird Nest: Beijing National Stadium/Herzog & de Meuron, the Water Cube: National Aquatic Center/Australian PTW, ARUP, and CCDI, the National Indoor Stadium/…
  5. The new CCTV Tower/OMA Rem Koohaas, MOMA/ Steven Holl, Galaxy Soho/Zaha Hadid,
  6. Great Wall. Commune by the Great Wall, a private collection of contemporary architecture designed by 12 Asian architects: including Bamboo Wall House/Kengo Kuma, Furniture House by Shigeru Ban, and Split House by Yung Ho Chang, and other houses.
  7. Beijing 798 Art Zone, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

Hong Kong (4 days): Hong Kong is a unique city in China where the Western and Eastern culture encounter and blend. It is the one of the most important center of commerce and cultural interactions in Asia. Visits in Hong Kong include many high-rise towers, including Norman Foster’s HK & Shanghai Bank and I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower; Kowloon Walled City traditional markets; Victoria Peak; AMMO Restaurant interior design; HK Polytechnic University Community College by Wang Weijen; HK Institute of Design by CAAU; Golden Moon Pavilion by LEAD; Siu Sai Wan Complex by Ronald Lu; ZCB Zero Carbon Building by Ronald Lu; Edouard Malingue Gallery by OMA; and Architecture School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong by Ida & Billy.

Academic Program

All Architecture students in the KU Master of Architecture (Tracks I, II, & III) must enroll in nine hours of architecture credit for this program.

  • ARCH 690 Architecture Study Abroad (6 credit hours)
  • ARCH 692 Documentation (3 credit hours)

All other students must enroll in ARCH 690 Architecture Study Abroad (6 credit hours).


Participants will stay in centrally located hotels in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong.  

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

The program is open to the following students:

  • KU Masters of Architecture Students (Track I, II & III) who have completed either ARCH 208 or ARCH 502
  • KU Design students
  • KU Architectural Studies Students
  • KU Architectural Engineering students
  • Non-KU Architecture and Design students who have completed second year of study

Priority will be given to KU Architecture and Design students.

Hui Cai Ph.D., an Associate Professsor of Architecture at the University of Kansas, has worked with leading Chinese architectural design firms and conducted collaborative research with Chinese academic institutions for years.

For more information, contact:

Hui Cai, Associate Professor

Architecture Department

112 Marvin