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Beijing B.A.S.E. -Exploring the Changing Face of Urban and Rural China


Beijing, China

Program Description

During the seven weeks in China, we will work to document the Changing Face of Urban and Rural China in the city of Beijing and the Rural Township of The Pearl River Valley, just North of the Great Wall. We are living at a pivotal point of World History. Over 50% of human population is living in Urban Environments. JMU students are invited to work on project teams to explore the massive urban and cultural change that has occurred since the announcement of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Beijing's extensive highway system did not exist and bicycles were the main source of transportation before 2008. These changes have substantially effected Chinese life.

The BASE student projects respond to the new urban living condition of the 21st Century in Beijing, China. You will explore these changes alongside Chinese students from Beijing University of Technology and other American Students from University of Michigan and SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture). You are invited to participate in BASE's fourteenth year of operation in Beijing, China! Your work will be part of an on-going published research project that continues to document and responded to the Changes in Beijing's Living Environment during an unprecedented time of massive change. All students are welcome and needed to add ideas and insight to this project. Typically the majority of students are from architecture and design based programs and there are great opportunities for Art, Photography, Art History, Anthropology, Engineering, and Archeology, Chinese Language and Culture Students.

The project teams will be cross-disciplinary as well as cross-cultural. You will be exploring Villages in Urban Beijing and Rural China. One of two Projects that you will be doing is the active documentation of an Urban Village or a Rural Village. This investigation is part of an on-going project at BASE and is being developed into a series of books for publication. Your team will discover new villages or continue research on a previously studied village. Exploration and documentation occurs through drawings, interviews, photography, film and building. This past summer students also helped build and oversee a traditionally framed Rural House and designed and oversaw the installation of a new cistern. The Urban group discovered and investigated a new Pop-Up Urban Village next to the Airport. A Final Exhibition of this work is open to the Chinese Artists and Architects and the semester is concluded with a Feast and Celebration. Your time at BASE will also focus on making and building. As a part of an ongoing line of research, prototyping, and production, useful Chinese Cultural Objects and Materials such as furniture, clothing and everyday objects are studied. You will have the opportunity to design and materialize a useful object (chair, book, lamp, etc), photographic series, hand made book, drawing series, performance piece, novella or other in response to your insights into the Chinese Cultural Artifact.

BASE has a full shop that facilitates making things in a variety of materials and Beijing has a many material markets and fabricators that can be used to outsource production such as Tangshan Porcelain Factory, local welders, and Caochangdi’'s Garment Factory. This work will also be a part of the Final Exhibition. (The non-designers will have the opportunity to instigate an individualized project as an alternative to the as it relates to their field of study and the modern culture being studied at B.A.S.E.) As supplements to the primary studio projects, lectures will be given by Chinese Art Critic Zhang Fang, a weekly Chinese Film Festival of an avant guard Chinese Film will be viewed, a Friday Night Feast will be designed and prepared by the group, a visitor or two will appear, talks will be given by Caochangdi artists often including Ai Wei Wei, Fabrication Shops will be visited, and ample opportunities exist to tour local Art Galleries and New Architecture by Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl and others. Additionally in Beijing, you will be participating in Ancient Chinese Culture by actively seeing and documenting Chinese Historic sites, such as Photographing The Forbidden City, Drawing and Measuring the Echo Wall at the Temple of Heaven, Hiking and Mapping The Great Wall. These activities will be cultivated in a Sketch Book, short film or other.

Location Description

Beijing Architecture Studio Enterprise, known as B.A.S.E., is located in an Urban Village in the Northern Eastern Edge of Beijing in the Caochangdi Arts District and next to the 798 Arts District. Caochangdi is an Urban Village that hosts most of China's new frontier of Artists and Galleries. Ai Weiwei was the first of the artists to arrive in the Village thirteen years ago, building his personal Art Commune, inspiring dozens of large art and photography galleries in the village. B.A.S.E. is located across the street from Ai Wei Wei's Working Galleries in its own spacious Art and Architecture Studio and Shop sporting one of the new Art Restaurants in Beijing. Besides Artists and Galleries, Caochangdi is a friendly Chinese Village with shops, markets, street vendors, and restaurants. It is located on the Fifth Ring Road and is close to a subway station and is a walkable and bicycle friendly community. You can find descriptions of Caochangdi in recent New York Times articles, Wikipedias and other internet accessible publications


Evelyn Tickle | | Art, Design and Art History


Accommodations are provided through apartments, with several lunches or dinners available per week.

Additional Items to Consider

Ideal candidates come from from the School of Art, Design and Art History, ISAT and Engineering, Anthropology, Archeology, Chinese Language and Cultural Studies. All student are welcome and encouraged to apply!

You will need a Travel Visa to enter China.

This program is targeted to rising juniors through graduate students.

Application Process

For this program, students are required to submit the following material(s):

  • Attend an interview with the program director prior to the application deadline: Evelyn Tickle | | Art, Design, & Art History

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 3.0 (lower with professor override).

For more detailed instructions and to download the application, please click on the following link to the Applications and Forms section for JMU Short-Term Programs.

Official transcript required for first-semester transfer students and non-JMU students.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


IARC 392: Topics in Interior Architecture: Independent Study, Beijing (6 credits)