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Please contact the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability anytime by completing the form to the right.

If you have any questions about the May 2014 AIA China program, please feel free to ask in the adjacent Message box.

900 N. Glebe Rd.
Arlington, VA

(540) 585-4985

The American Institute of Architects’ Housing Knowledge Community is partnering with the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability at Virginia Tech (CLiGS) and the Yunnan Sustainability Network to offer a professional development and service learning opportunity in southwestern China to members of the AIA. Through this 10-day program, we will explore the opportunities and challenges to conceptualize, communicate, and develop sustainable housing and communities. Our itinerary will take us from Beijing and Shanghai to several communities In Yunnan, China’s most diverse province, ethnically, biologically, and ecologically. There we will explore the interactivity between Yunnan’s natural and cultural landscape and the rapid growth of China’s economy. 

Program Itinerary & Cost

Join us in China this May for an unforgettable journey through Yunnan and
Shanghai with the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability as your guide.

The AIA Housing Knowledge Community and the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability at Virginia Tech are sponsoring a delegation that will travel within China from May 19th to May 28th, 2014 to study housing in China’s Yunnan Province and explore options for continuing engagement in sustainability initiatives in the region including the curriculum of a new architectural program at Dali University. 

The group will meet in Beijing, travel to and within Yunnan Province, and conclude in Shanghai. The majority of our time will be spent in Yunnan Province. We will explore three unique areas within Yunnan Province – Dali, Lijiang, and Gyalthang (also known as "Shangri-La") – all of which are experiencing dramatic and rapid economic, cultural, and development change with profound implications for local communities. Participants will have an opportunity to add additional time to either end of the trip to explore other areas of China or Asia.

Program Dates: May 19-28, 2014

Beijing (Day 1)
The group will convene in Beijing for a welcome reception and introduction to the week. You May want to consider arriving early to visit the Forbidden City and experience the symbolic code that resonates in traditional architecture throughout China. The key themes of harmony, cosmology, family structure, and social hierarchies are inscribed in traditional imperial architecture.

Lodging: Beijing TBD (1 night)

Travel to Yunnan
Throughout China and in the small towns and villages of Yunnan province there has been a tremendous building boom, in which farming houses built of local materials through labor exchanges are being replaced with larger homes oriented toward consumption and private space. This transformation reflects various trends associated with economic development – increased cash flows from outbound migrant labor, availability of new materials such as concrete and glass windows, the advent of running water and flush toilets, and the declining importance of traditional agriculture. With the rapid increase of wage labor and the rising tourist economy, how can new homes support sustainable livelihoods in the region? How can traditional architecture and folkways negotiate the sweeping changes brought by rapid modernization? The distinct regional and ethnic identities of communities in Yunnan province offer case studies that engage these crucial questions of sustainability in China.  

Dali & Xizhou Village (Days 2-4)
With dramatic mountain ranges delineating the basin boundary and Erhai Lake at the center, the Dali region is characterized by the architecture and colors of the Bai culture, by extensive alluvial fields, intensively cultivated, and by ancient villages . . . with new construction springing up everywhere. Old Town Dali, which dates back to the 14th Century Ming Dynasty, is located at the southern tip of the lake and serves as a major tourism destination for the region, drawing domestic and foreign visitors to wander its narrow bustling streets. Further north up the lake is Xizhou Village, whose Bai character remains, despite increasing pressure from tourism and economic development. Leaders in the conservation of cultural integrity in this village have been Brian and Jeanee Linden, developers and proprietors of the Linden Centre, an award winning boutique hotel in Xizhou, where our group will stay. We will spend time with Brian, a CLiGS Fellow, and Jeanee as they lead us through the story of their decade of historical and cultural preservation work in locations across China, primarily in Xizhou Village.  

In Dali, we will meet with local leaders and Dali University faculty members to discuss the area’s goals and strategies for development, housing, and community services. These discussions will lay the foundation for a potential long-term study on sustainable development in the region co-sponsored by the Yunnan Sustainability Network and the AIA.

Lodging: Linden Centre, Xizhou Village (3 nights)

Lijiang & surrounding area (Days 5-6)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lijiang is a trading town dating back to the 13th century. Maintaining a still functional system of intricate waterways and bridges, Old Town Lijiang is heavily influenced by the Naxi culture, although the variety of architectural influences reflects the diaspora of cultures that characterize any centuries-old trading town. Lijiang has become a major tourism draw for the region, with 8 million visitors in 2012 alone. This volume of visitors creates conflict between access and authenticity and stresses the city’s economy, infrastructure, and community. The Old City as a traditional place of residence must now compete with commercial real estate use.  We will explore two ‘old towns’ – one fundamentally changed by tourism, and one still thriving as a working village – and compare the issues around housing with local experts. We will also include time to explore the magnificent landscape around Lijiang.

Lodging: Lijiang – TBD (2 nights)

Shangri-La (Days 7-8)
From Lijiang, we will travel up onto the Tibetan Plateau to experience a third distinct region of Yunnan Province – Shangri-La. Located along the Tibetan-Chinese border at almost 10,000 feet above sea level, Shangri-La’s landscape is markedly different, and the Tibetan cultural influence is significantly more pronounced, than at lower elevations in Yunnan Province. This is manifest in the building practices, land use patterns, natural resource stocks, culture, and economy. Enormous Buddhist monasteries overlooking the snow-capped Himalayas impart a cultural flavor unique within China. We will explore traditional regional structures including private homes, mainstreet buildings, grand monasteries, and Buddhist temples that speckle the hillsides. Of particular interest is the current housing boom in “traditional” Tibetan timber and rammed-earth home construction with the accompanying challenges of timber supply and land use conversion. 

Lodging: Shangri-la – Banyan Tree Ringha (2 nights)

Shanghai (day 9-10)
The program will conclude in the megacity of Shanghai, where our previous week in Yunnan Province will intensify the contrasts between the ancient and modern China. We will tour the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, which does a remarkable job telling the story of the city’s development, past and continuing, from its time as a colonial port (reminiscent along the Bund), to its modern day skyline just across the river. The program will conclude that evening with a farewell reception. 
Lodging: Shanghai TBD

Program Cost

Cost per person is $2950 based on double-occupancy. Upgrade to single-occupancy is an additional $400 (limited availability).  Given the limited occupancy of many of the places we will be staying, this program is limited to the first 23 confirmed participants.

Program cost includes:

  • Three- to four-star hotel accommodations from May 19 - May 28
  • Group meals and non-alcoholic beverages (usually two meals per day)
  • Transportation during tour-related events
  • In-country plane, bus, rail, and excursion fees for sites on the tour
  • Admission or entrance fees for activities on the itinerary
  • Gratuities for tour operators
  • Translation & logistics support

Tour participants are responsible for costs not listed above, such as:

  • Travel to Beijing and return from Shanghai, including airfare
  • Taxes (e.g., airport facilities, local air departure, port), federal inspection fees, etc.
  • Passport and visa fees, photos, processing, etc.
  • Insurance (international travel, trip cancellation, medical, emergency medical evacuation, accident, life, luggage, etc.)
  • Meals not on the itinerary
  • Personal expenses (e.g. alcoholic beverages, room service, and laundry charges)
  • Internet roaming fees and telephone charges
  • Costs incurred by our tour operators to make individual arrangements before, during, or after the program
  • Accommodations the evening of May 29th

Tour costs reflect current tariffs and currency values and are based on a minimum number of participants. While the sponsors will do everything possible to maintain the listed prices, they are subject to change. If our tour operators find it necessary to levy a surcharge, the sponsors will notify you at the time of invoicing.

 Xizhou Village, Dali, summer 2013

 Xizhou Village, Dali, summer 2013

 Photographed in Shangri-La

 Photographed in Shangri-La

Old Town Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Old Town Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

A home-cooked meal at the Linden Centre

A home-cooked meal at the Linden Centre

Photographed in Yunnan Province, summer 2009

Photographed in Yunnan Province, summer 2009

Staff member at the Linden Centre, spring 2013

Staff member at the Linden Centre, spring 2013