Dr Xiang Ren

B.Arch, MA (Dist), PhD, FHEA

School of Architecture



My research and teaching lies in the search for the reinvention of the discipline of architecture from within its own traditions.

I aim to construct theories related to the foundations of the domain of architecture, which is rooted in and derived from the works of recent history (Modernism and after) and contemporary architectural design practice.

I graduated with a professional degree in architecture and worked for award-winning practices, before received my PhD and qualified as a Fellow of Higher Education Academy from Sheffield School of Architecture.

Prior to joining our School, I lectured in Interior Architecture course at Sheffield Hallam University.

Research interests

I am interested in form, type, use, structure, composition, material, tectonics, topography, atmosphere and the relationships of these topics with other intellectual disciplinary settings and professional developments from the early Modernism period till nowadays.

I have also maintained a long-time interest in pre-modern architecture and settlements and historical built environment, particularly in East-Asian and Southern European cultural contexts.

My growing interest in social architecture and architectural anthropology was traced in my PhD research, which focused on contemporary socially-engaged architecture and architects in traditional Chinese villages, using case study as the main method, intersecting with social anthropology and design activism methodologically.

I was invited to present in various academic conferences and symposiums including UCD Dublin, KU Leuven Brussels, HKW Berlin, UPC Barcelona, Milano Polytechnic, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.

PhD Supervision Interests

  • Architectural history and theory of 20th century, Modernism and after
  • Social and cultural anthropological studies of building and settlement
  • Vernacular, participative and socially-engaged architecture
  • Rapid urbanism and traditional villages
  • Architectural disciplinarily viable knowledge production and dissemination
  • Architectural research practice and design research

Journal articles


  • Ren X (2021) A Form of Resistance: A Barefoot-architect’s Own House In Gosseye J & Doucet I (Ed.), Activism at Home: Architects’ Own Dwellings as Sites of Resistance. Leipzig, Germany: Spector Books. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2020) Tailor, Mason, Intellectual, Peasant: An Alternative Architect towards Sustainable Regeneration in Rural China In Zuo J (Ed.), Bi Shan Beijing, China: Chinese National Geography - CITIC Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

  • Ren X (2017) Architecture and Ritual, Peter Blundell Jones. Heritage Architecture, 2(4), 112-113. RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Huang Y & Ren X (2019) Towards a Historic Rural Landscape: theoretical framework with a Chinese Rural Village Regeneration Design Study. 2019 Sino-European Forum on Vernacular Heritage. Jinan, China, 26 October 2019 - 27 October 2019. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X & Huang Y (2019) Towards a Historic Urban Landscape: principles and approaches in two built heritage and landscape regeneration projects in the Yorkshire region of England. AESOP 2019 International Conference ‘Planning for Transition’. Venice, 9 July 2019 - 13 July 2019. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2018) Activism at Home: A Barefoot-Architect’s Version. Activism at Home. Manchester, 15 January 2018 - 16 January 2018. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X & Qiao J (2017) Ming-Tang as both Architecture and Infrastructure for Chinese Traditional Festivals. Architecture, Festival and the City. Birmingham, 16 November 2017 - 18 November 2017. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2017) Design Research in Practice: Reflection on an ongoing project through the lens of hybrid practitioner. ARENA Design Research (in) Practice. University of Reading, 21 April 2016 - 22 April 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2016) Textual practice of buildings by carpenter-architect and barefoot-architect. Writing Buildings. Canterbury, 14 July 2016 - 16 July 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2016) Listening to the Ancestral Hall -- Architecture of Silence. The Place of Silence. University of Edinburgh, 22 June 2016 - 24 January 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2016) Social Architecture in Rapid Rural-Urban Transition in China from 2005 to 2015. Visible and Invisible Challenges -- Transformations in Contemporary China. University of Oxford China Center, 20 May 2016 - 21 May 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2016) Readdressing Critical Regionalism: Critical Architecture of Resistance in Rural-Urban China. Regional Urbanism in the Era of Globalization. Huddersfield, 4 February 2016 - 5 February 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2015) Professional Theory, Amateur Practice. This Thing Called Theory. Leeds, 19 November 2015 - 21 November 2015. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2015) The Structure of Ordinary: Ancestral Hall Building in Hui Vernacular Settlement in China. Architecture, Education and Society. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 3 June 2015 - 5 June 2015. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2015) Hybrid Architectural Interventions in Chinese Villages. Architecture of Alterity. University of Edinburgh, 25 May 2015 - 27 May 2015. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2015) Hybrid Building Narratives. ARENA Architecture Research Moments. KU Leuven, Brussels, 30 January 2015 - 31 January 2015. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2014) Rural Skin, Urban Masks: Hybridization at the Edge of Contemporary Chinese cities. Hybridization Design Strategies / Key Concepts, Researches and Projects(4). Politecnico di Milano, 3 November 2014 - 4 November 2014. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2014) Translating Vernacular Hybridity into a Living Matrix -- Reflections on the production and occupation of a School Building. Architecture and Education, 3 September 2014 - 5 September 2014. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Ren X (2019, May 24) Form of Silence: Tanghua Architects, 12 Built Projects. The Arts Tower, University of Sheffield. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2015, February 20) Whisper of the Rural Vernacular: Drawings, Designs, Buildings. The Bridge Gallery, University of Westminster’s Marylebone Campus, London, 20 February - 15 March 20. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ren X (2011, October 21) Provincial Bureau of Construction New Workplace Building Design and Research. Provincial Bureau of Construction, Hefei city, China, 21 October - 21 November 2011. RIS download Bibtex download

Website content

  • Ren X China’s ‘barefoot architects’ are transforming left-behind rural villages, August 22, 2019, THE CONVERSATION. RIS download Bibtex download

Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries

  • Ren X (2020) Haobo Wei, Consumption. In Encyclopaedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World (2nd ed). London, UK: Bloomsbury. RIS download Bibtex download
Teaching activities

I contribute to the research-led teaching in architectural humanities and design at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Sheffield School of Architecture, and I am a member of its prestigious Centre for East-West Studies in Architecture and Landscape.

  • ARC 125 Architectural Design 1
  • ARC 126 Architectural Design 2
  • ARC 204 Humanities 4
  • ARC 322 Special Studies
  • ARC 6874 Conservation and Regeneration Principles and Approaches
  • ARC 6986 Architectural Design Project 1
  • ARC 6987 Architectural Design Project 2
  • ARC 6988 Thesis Project