UCN initiative

Urban Reflection on COVID-19

URBAN REFLECTION ON COVID-19 is a student initiative that asked the participants to discuss the phenomenon and heuristic solutions within the field of Chinese Urbanism, and to provide ideas of how to manage this crisis in a post-pandemic future.

This initiative was organized by Columbia Global Centers | Beijing and Columbia University Urban China Network, a student organization of the Urban Planning program within the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Echoing the theme of the 7th Urban China Forum held in October by UCN, this initiative expanded the discussion and brought in diverse perspectives of students, allowed them to have a deeper understanding of interested urbanism topics, and communicate their thoughts with fellow students and scholars.

The initiative received more than 100 constructive and innovative design and essay works from young scholars and students over the past six months. These works discuss the phenomenon and heuristic solutions within the field of Chinese Urbanism and provide ideas of how to manage this crisis in a post-pandemic future.

Six design and essay award winners were selected after a full month of review by a number of experts, including Weiping Wu, Professor of GSAPP and Director of the Master of Urban Planning Program, and Guicai Li, Dean of the School of Urban Planning and Design of Peking University.

Panel Discussions

To facilitate and invoke in-depth conversation on topics related to Chinese Urbanism, the initiative hosted two panel discussions, featuring Columbia alumni, professors, and practitioners.

Learn more about each panel and watch the highlights and full recordings below.


Panel I: Big Data Response Mechanism of Post-COVID-China Urbanization

This panel discussion provided a great opportunity for the public to learn from Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation's faculty and young scholars and practitioners' insightful perspectives and innovative projects on the application of big data response mechanism in the urban planning sector during the post-pandemic era. 

Featuring remarks and discussion with:

Weiping Wu, Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia GSAPP and Director of the M.S. Urban Planning program
Peiqin Gu, Co-founder & CTO of CityDNA Technology
Yang Liao, Planner of Shenzhen Urban Planning and Design Institute
Helena Rong, Doctoral student of Urban Planning from Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Panel II: Post-COVID-China Urbanization

This panel discussion on the phenomenon and heuristic solutions within the field of Chinese Urbanism in a post-pandemic future was joined by two professional practitioners in the field and award winners, who shared their inspiration and insights behind the works.

Featuring remarks and discussion with:

Jun (Joe) Cai CBS '18 EMBA, Co-Founder of JALP Architecture and Planning, Chief Architect, Member of Shenzhen's Construction Project Bid Evaluation Committee,  Executive Committee of Columbia Alumni Association of Beijing
Shih-Ning (Steven) Zhou GSAPP '13, Architect, Deputy Design Director of the Architecture Department at Beijing Institute of Architectural Design——iaud, Editor & Translator of Detail Kultur (2016), by GSAPP Prof. Christoph a. Kumpusch

Exhibition of Excellent Design Projects

In August, Columbia Global Centers | Beijing co-curated a month-long exhibition to showcase award-winning and outstanding design projects to everyone interested in related topics.

First Prizes

Peeping Through

Zihan Sun, GSAPP '22

Faced with the sudden emergence of Covid-19, Fangcang Hospital greatly relieved the medical pressure as the number of patients increased. These hospitals with repeated units can be built quickly on a large scale. However, the open space leads to poor personal privacy and spatial monotony. To address these issues, this project employs variants of 'Triply Periodic Minimal Surface' to design medical capsules that provide a sense of protection while still enable eye contact with others.

There are three main types of units designed to meet the need of different spatial scales, such as single wards, multi-person wards, or staff offices. Every unit is divided into multiple panels that can be built quickly with skeletons and joint bars. After the epidemic, the capsules can function as commercial space, temporary housing, shared office, or amusement facility.


Risk Transmission Characteristics in City Network Under the Background of COVID-19: A Case Study on Wuhan Metropolitan Area

Lin Tian, Tongji University

As the connections within and between city regions have become increasingly frequent and close, it can promote the efficiency of regional resource allocation, bringing benefits to cities in the city networks; however, it may also bring regional risks to them. Nonetheless, the “negative effect" of network connection is often neglected. Taking Wuhan metropolitan area as an example, this paper attempts to explore the correlation between the structural characteristics of the trans city population mobility network and the spatial transmission of the COVID 19 epidemic. The results show that risk can trigger the “cascade effect” in the city network. The “systematic risk” is more likely to occur in a mono-center city regional network. In the context of the rapid growth of China's urban agglomerations and metropolitan areas, we should be alert of the systematic risks of city regions, and guide the optimization of city-regional network structure through spatial planning.

Second Prizes

Nonstop Manhattan

Wei Xiao, GSAPP '24

The COVID-19 Pandemic has created numerous challenges to the conventional model of consumption, production, and habitation, while it also generates new opportunities for transformation.

Urban department stores, long served as one of the leading factors for urban development and a lens to reflect the more extensive socioeconomic condition, now lies at a crucial intersection for re-evaluation. Along with the development of online shopping, if global events such as pandemics continuously happen in the future, what would be the afterlife of the current conventional urban department stores? If abandoned, how can the leftover space reposition itself as a potential public space in our city? The project re-imagines the future of the site- Nordstrom Flagship Store near Columbus Circle, to be transformed into a flexible public stage for constant social interactions.

Under the influence of COVID-19, the increasing blur between the domestic and labor realm in our life has fostered the definition of workspace towards a less defined framework. Working from home, nature, storefront – the current forms of labor break the physical boundary of the office space, instead dedicated by the potential of the multiple environments that can be found and utilized.

As a response, the design proposal consists of a field of distinctive rooms with collections of working and living environments, including both conventional office spaces and unconventional working environments. By creating this continuous but various range of conditions with their limitations, the collection aims to offer moments of reflection and criticism of the ambiguity and unpredictability of post-pandemic office spaces.


Space-time Folding of Delivery

Xinyue Gu, Wenchu Zhang, Xinyu Wu, Yu Du, South China University of Technology '23

In 2019, after the outbreak of COVID-19, home isolation has become the daily part of life, which according to the data caused the national online consumption surge and made delivery man have a new role - urban ferrymen. Delivery man, who delivered not only fast food, but also more fresh and daily necessities, play an important role for the good operation of our society now.

This convenient mode of instant delivery also extended to the post-epidemic era, the yellow or blue figure has become a necessary part of social efficient production. However, delivery men’s exposed unhealthy and high-pressure working environment has not been properly protected.
For example, the Pearl River New Town in Guangzhou, which has the highest sales of take-out service, attracts a large number of delivery men arriving here very noon, causing our doubt that, “Where do these delivery men come from? How is their working situation? Are their health and
safety guaranteed? Can they only run against to time?”

After researching we found that the main delivery to the Pearl River New Town comes from its nearby urban village - Shipai. Therefore, this design we settled in Shipai, paying attention to the space-time folding possibilities of delivery path in the post-epidemic era and hoping to provide a more efficient and more humane connected system for delivery men and the city.

Space folding: Unfold the path of delivery starting from business in village and ending in the main exits of Shipai. We optimize the path through controlling of vehicles, integrating public space, opening street interface, optimizing node and so on.

Time folding: Unfold the day of delivery man starting at 8am and end with 11pm, which corresponding to their working hours. Space folding has improved the efficiency of path, then we optimize the use of time through shifting peak load and placing convenient devices.


Warm Boxes

 Fangyu Zhu, Mai Liao, Yuhan Guo, Huan Chen, Yilun Cao, Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture '22

Whether in the outbreak of COVID 19 or in the post epidemic era, delivery men are like ferrymen, serving as a bridge between people and
providing a variety of services. At the same time, they also face problems such as lack of social care and space to rest. Caring for them is our
exploration of the fairness of urban landscape.

In order to provide social care for delivery men, we designed a device inserted into the public space of the city. We named it the Warm Box,
which provides a resting place for service providers.

The Warm Box is composed of solar roof, seats, night lighting system, sunshade facilities, plants, raised wooden floor combined with public
space. It is a fabricated structure and has many functions such as disinfection, rest, shading and so on. It can be arbitrarily placed in schools,
shopping malls, squares, parks, and other spaces to provide a public place for people walking through the city. As a movable furniture in the city, it can provide convenient services for more people.

We hope that in the cold environment of the epidemic, the Warm Box can help people to keep a certain social distance, make more people use public space safely, and bring everyone care and warmth from the society not just delivery men


Research on the Supply Mode and Strategy of Medical Resources in China Based on Major Public Health Emergencies

Lijun Xu, Shenyang Jianzhu University '23

Medical resources in China are allocated according to certain standards, considering factors such as comprehensive geographical area, population, transportation, economy, and urbanization. In the case of public health emergencies, the local medical resources are often unable to meet the explosive medical needs under special circumstances, while the medical requirements of infectious diseases are in situ treatment. Expansion is the inevitable choice for the hospital where the epidemic is located. Based on the emergency practice of medical resources under public health emergencies in China, the paper summarizes five modes of medical resources supply and proposes two strategies of horizontal coordination within the region and vertical dispatching of external rescue, according to the phased management and control of public health emergencies. Combined with the practical experience in fighting with COVID-19, this article puts forward that the sustainable construction of prevention and control of infectious diseases should be emphasized, incorporating Xiao Tang Shan medical service into the infectious disease protection system, establishing the construction standard of shelter hospital, to forming flexible medical network resources.