Dr Xiang Ren
B.Arch (1st), MA (Dist), PhD, FHEA
School of Architecture
Lecturer in Architecture
Programme Leader MA Architectural Design
School Library Leader
Trained as an architect, I worked for award-winning practices from China and Australia, before received my MA, PhD, FHEA qualifications from Sheffield 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 non-canonical theories and narratives related to the foundations of the domain of architecture and its core disciplinary knowledge, through lectures, articles, tours and exhibitions.
This is primarily based on a closer reading and thicker interpretation on the substance and process of architecture, its cultural meaning, its social construction, its varied tectonic and ritual forms, in a longer history and across a larger world.
- Research interests
My fundamental position is that architecture is concerned with building and larger life-worlds.
My fundamental research enquiry is about the driving force of architecture as both a profession and a discipline, on what is and will be the core disciplinary knowledge, considering the highly practice-based nature of architecture and design, and the increasing tension between building and disciplinary knowledge.
I am particularly interested in understanding form, type, use, structure, plan, composition, material, tectonics, topography, atmosphere from non-canonical architectural histories and contemporary practices, and the relationships of these topics with other intellectual disciplinary settings and professional developments.
I have also maintained a long-time interest in pre-modern architecture, settlements and historical built environment in the contemporary cities, particularly within South and East Asian historical and cultural contexts. Specific themes include architectural anthropology, ancient archetypes, contemporary vernacular architecture, living architectural traditions and practice, Modernism and its organic tradition, the East-West architectural encounter and interaction.
My PhD project focused on contemporary socially-engaged architecture and architects in traditional Chinese villages, using case study as the main method, intersecting social anthropology with design research methodologically.
I presented my research 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. Two of my research works were shortlisted for RIBA Presidents Research Awards in 2014 and 2016.
PhD Supervision Interests
- Conservation and regeneration of traditional settlements and built heritage
- Architectural anthropology and design anthropology
- Vernacular, participative and socially-engaged architecture
- Non-canonical architectural history and theory of 20th century
- Modernism and its interaction with regional building traditions
- Chinese architecture and urbanism
- East-West studies in architecture and landscape
- Architectural design research, drawing and dwelling
Current PhD Students
- Abhishek Bhutoria (2021- ), PhD project – Himalayan Villages in Nepal: the impact of architecture on household, socio-cultural processes, and formation of new villages
- Xiaolu Wang (2019- ), PhD project – Mountain, Monastery, Medieval China: on the ancient Chinese architectural archetype
- Najihah Ngaimin (2019- ), PhD project – The City as a Cultural-Historical Project: Putrajaya, Malaysia
- Yang Yang (2017-, middle-stage supervisor following the leaving of Dr. Florian Kossak), PhD project – Re-discovering and Re-evaluating Public Space in Tokyo: typology and human behaviour in contemporary Japanese architecture
I also act as second supervisor for:
- Zainab A. A. Murtadhawi Qanawati (2018- ), PhD project – The Modernist School Architectural Heritage in Kuwait
- Tongfei Jin (2019- ), PhD project – Community Resilience based on Urban Micro-Regeneration in Beijing China
- CHINESE ANCESTRAL HALL: SOCIO-SPATIAL TRADITIONS, RITUAL ARCHITECTURE FORM, AND DECAYING CLAN COMMUNITIES. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, XXXIII(I), 33-33.
- Huxi Library, Tanghua Architect & Associates. The Architect, Sri Lanka Institute of Architect, 397-402.
- China’s Architecture in a Globalizing World: Between Socialism and the Market, by Jiawen Han. London: Routledge, 2017. xi+196 pp. US$153.75 (cloth), US$49.95 (paper).. The China Journal, 85(January 2021), 200-201.
- Xiang Ren on reading grassroots architecture in Beijing’s conservation area - Hutong Mushroom By Han Li and Qiuye Jin. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 24(3), 295-298. View this article in WRRO
- Towards openness / OPEN ReAction. The Journal of Architecture, 25(5), 650-657.
- Thin mask, thick mnemonic: the idea of the wall and genius loci in two contemporary buildings. ARQ: Architectural Research Quarterly, 24(1), 37-48. View this article in WRRO
- View this article in WRRO An 'other' concinnitas : temporality and renewability in the Yuanlin Zhang Gallery. Scroope Journal(28), 61-73.
- Anonymous Process and Absent Architect: Behind the Scenes of Chinese Rural Regeneration. Architecture and Culture, 6(1), 145-154. View this article in WRRO
- Padley Mill: A Question of Interpretation. Heritage Architecture, 3(1), 71-82.
- 深度勘查，图绘转译和设计介入：英国谢菲尔德大学建筑学专业硕士研究型教学解析. 城市建筑, 2017(10)(No.261), 18-23.
- Xiang Ren on an organic connection with China. Architecture and Ritual: How Buildings Shape Society By Peter Blundell Jones London, Bloomsbury, 2016. Architectural Research Quarterly, 21(3), 277-280. View this article in WRRO
- Rural face, urban mask: Architecture of communal form and collective practice in two chinese villages from 2010 to 2015. Architecture and Culture, 5(1), 57-76. View this article in WRRO
- Architecture and Ritual, Peter Blundell Jones. Heritage Architecture, 2(4), 112-113.
- Clan-Community Hall. The RIBA Journal.
- Architecture as Catalysts. Xin Jianzhu: New Architecture.
- Socially engaged architecture in a Chinese rural village: Xihe Village Community Centre, 2014. Architectural Research Quarterly, 20(2), 119-130. View this article in WRRO
- Archi-infrastructure as Urban Patchworks & Generators: The Ongoing London Crossrail (2008-2019) Project. Time+Architecture, 32(2).
- Live, Social-engagement and transformative value -- Research-led teaching in the first year at the Sheffield School of Architecture[任翔, 康健（2015）活性，社会参与性和转变性--英国谢菲尔德大学建筑学院本科一年级研究型教学解析. 世界建筑导报,5期 (总 165)，45-47页]. World Architecture Review(5), 45-47.
- Hybridization, Landform, and Catalyst Buildings -- Interpretation on Two Libraries Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. Architecture Technique & Art, 04.
- The Elementary School at Arnulfpark in Munich by Hess Talhof Kusmierz Architekten. Xin Jianzhu: New Architecture, 152.
- Reflection on Le Corbusier: an interview with Peter Blundll Jones. Xin Jianzhu: New Architecture, 02, 14-16.
- The Absence of Pictorial Characterization and the Presentation of Regional Imagination: Notes on the Design of No. 45 High School in Hefei City. Architecture Technique & Art, 12.
- 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.
- 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.
Conference proceedings papers
- 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.
- Form of Silence: Tanghua Architects, 12 Built Projects. The Arts Tower, University of Sheffield.
- Whisper of the Rural Vernacular: Drawings, Designs, Buildings. The Bridge Gallery, University of Westminster’s Marylebone Campus, London, 20 February - 15 March 20.
- Provincial Bureau of Construction New Workplace Building Design and Research. Provincial Bureau of Construction, Hefei city, China, 21 October - 21 November 2011.
- China’s ‘barefoot architects’ are transforming left-behind rural villages, August 22, 2019, THE CONVERSATION.
- Research group
- 2019, ‘Architectural-Anthropological Approaches in Sustainable Regeneration of Ethnic Minorities’ Settlements’,
- French Embassy/TUOS, Grant: £2460; Sole PI
- 2019, ‘Conservation and Regeneration of Chinese Ancestral Hall in Zhejiang Province’, WUN/TUOS, Grant: £2000; Sole PI
- 2018, ‘New Building Study Tour in London, Oxford and Cambridge’, industry, Grant: £2000
- 2016, ‘Hybrid Building and Hybrid Practitioner’, RIBA Presidents Awards for Research, Shortlisted
- 2016, ‘Understanding and Transforming Chinese Rural Villages’, GBCET/UCCL, Grant: £1500;
- 2016, ‘Park Hill’, Denis Mason Jones Award, RIBA/WYSA, £150;
- 2016, ‘Writing Buildings’, CREAte (University of Kent)/Architectural Review; Grant, £250;
- 2016, ‘Habits, Beliefs, and Tacit Knowledge: Everyday Ritual in East Asian Villages’, PGR Forum Funding TUOS/FSS, Grant: £250;
- 2015, ‘Housing System’, Wohnungsfrage Academy, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Germany, Grant: £1200
- 2015, ‘Sharing Futures’, ESRC/University of Birmingham, Grant: £100
- 2014, ‘Stereotomics, Tectonics and Material Presence’, RIBA Presidents Awards for Research, Shortlisted (national 1 of 4 finalist) following School Nomination
- Teaching interests
I contribute to the undergraduate architectural humanities lectures at various levels, mentor postgraduate Live Projects, have a M.Arch dissertation group, and lead a MA design studio.
My design studio focuses on the design conservation and regeneration of built heritage in changing contexts, based on the deep reading and reinterpreting of the site and place.
- Teaching activities
I have been the module leader for:
- ARC 204 Humanities 4 – Issues in Contemporary Architecture
- ARC 6874 Conservation and Regeneration: Principles and Approaches
- ARC 6986 Architectural Design Project
- ARC 6988 Thesis Project
I also give lectures to:
- ARC 103 Humanities 1 – Manifestos
- ARC 104 Humanities 2 – Architecture and Society
- ARC6983 Participation in Architecture and Urban Design
- ARC6975 Trajectories in Urban Design Practice
I supervise a large group of dissertation students for:
- ARC 322 Special Studies
- ARC 556 MArch Dissertation
- ARC 6988 MA Thesis Project
Apart from my curriculum involvements, I am a core member of the longstanding academic unit, East-West Studies in Architecture and Landscape, established by the late Professor Peter Blundell Jones with Dr. Jan Woudstra from Department of Landscape since early 2000s.
The regular East-West Seminars and newly-branded Peter Blundell Jones Memorial Lecture Series involves students across the School and the Department of Landscape, with leading academics and practitioners from China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Turkey.
- Professional activities
- Peer reviewer, Bloomsbury (2019–)
- Routledge (2019–)
- The Journal of Architecture (2018–)
- Architecture and Culture (2019–)
- Sustainability (2019–)
- Invited reviewer, School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, Y2, University of Loughborough (2018–); College of Architecture and Urban Planning, M.Arch, Tongji University (2020– )
- Peter Blundell Jones Memorial Travel Grant judge (2020–)
- Peter Blundell Jones Memorial Lecture Series organiser (2018–)
- Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative (GAHTC) member (2019–)
- European Architectural History Network (EAHN) member (2018–)
- Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) member (2014–)