IDU and The University of Hong Kong’s Urban Ecologies Design Lab
Architect and academic Juan Du has devoted all aspects of her career to the study of urban development in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and the pursuit of more socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable outcomes. Hong Kong-based Juan is Principal at architecture studio IDU, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Architecture at The University of Hong Kong (HKU), and Director of HKU’s Urban Ecologies Design Lab. Her interdisciplinary work draws on theory and practice to address urgent architectural and social problems.
She has deeply studied Shenzhen – the importance of its urban villages and migrant workers as well as its indigenous history and culture, which have been largely ignored in conventional representations and narratives of the city’s urbanisation. And her efforts (including exhibitions, lectures, and various community and cultural design projects) have paid off. “In 2018,” she explains, “the Shenzhen government’s urban planning policy on urban villages started to change from total demolition and displacement to partial improvement and rehabilitation.” Her book The Shenzhen Experiment was recently published by Harvard University Press.
In Hong Kong, she established HKU’s Urban Ecologies Design Lab and initiated Project Home Improvement (2015-18) – a series of community projects that have provided designs and upgrades for over 100 residents living in subdivided units or ‘cage homes’. This long-term collaboration with social NGOs in Hong Kong has led to the just-completed Friendship Homes – a pilot transitional housing project that provides co-living flats to the homeless.
Juan is a firm believer in the potential of design to affect positive societal change. Her many years of research and design in the region have contributed to the improvement of scholarly and public understandings of marginalised low-income communities and informal neighbourhoods in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Her works have represented an alternative mode of architectural practice in the region.
Photography of Juan Du by IDU, Project Home Improvement (2015-18) by Leon Suen/UEDL, Shangwei Urban Village Exhibition and Community Center (2018) by Zhang Chao/F+, Friendship Homes Transitional Housing for the Homeless (2019) by Leon Suen/UEDL, The Bookshop at Hong Kong Art Museum (2019) by IDU, and The Shenzhen Experiment (Book) (2019) by Juan-Du/Harvard University Press.