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Competition: Co-living community, China

An open international student ideas contest has been launched for a 1,000-unit co-living community in one of China’s first or second-tier cities (Deadline: 30 August)

Open to university students around the world, the anonymous competition seeks ‘environmentally-friendly and sustainable’ proposals for an innovative new prefabricated residential development featuring small apartments and shared living spaces.

The UIA-HYP Cup 2018 International Student Competition, backed by Tianjin University’s school of architecture and the International Union of Architects, aims to generate ideas for new communities which help boost China’s growing knowledge and creative industries.



Source: Image by Simon Desmarais


According to the brief: ‘China’s economy is shifting from the primacy of manufacturing to the primacy of a knowledge- and research-based service sector. This shift aligns with a global trend, namely the global socio-economic transformation from a society based on mechanical mass production to a society based on digital customization. This implies a city based on R&D, marketing and finance, requiring continuous networking and face to face communication. The city becomes the social super-brain.

‘This also implies the congregation of knowledge-hungry, entrepreneurial young professionals in central locations. Everybody comes with an insatiable need to network, to learn continuously, and potentially to team up in various entrepreneurial ventures. The idea of co-living caters for this new social need and desire. Co-living can create community, which depends on curated compatibility of the residents together with real spatial sharing.’

China is the world’s most populous country with a huge manufacturing base, which makes it the largest exporter of products on the planet. Recently the country has witnessed a gradual shift away from some its older heavily polluting industries with new service and consumer businesses transforming large inner-city sites.

As part of this move the Chinese government aims to make its knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy account for five per cent of GDP by 2020. The call for ideas aims to provoke debate about how this new economy could be enhanced through co-living communities.

Proposals may focus on any central urban site within a first or second tier Chinese city and should include a 1,000-unit development featuring small apartments measuring around 12m² for singles and 16m² for couples.

Concepts should harness prefabricated modules which are flexible and easily customisable while new social spaces – such as kitchens, eating areas, living areas, cafés, bars and co-working areas – will be expected to boost social interaction.

The competition language is English and judges include Zaha Hadid Architects principal Patrik Schumacher, PES-Architects founding partner Pekka Salminen, Tongji University professor Li Zhenyu, and Fuensanta Nieto – founder of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.

The overall winner will receive a $15,000 prize while three second prizes of $5,000 each and eight third prizes of $1,700 will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 30 August and submissions must be completed by 20 September.

Contact details


View the competition website for more information

Mapleton Crescent case study: Q&A with Jonathan Drage

The associate at Metropolitan Workshop discusses lessons learned designing a new modular tower in Wandsworth, London

Jonathan Drage

Jonathan Drage

Jonathan Drage

How will your project deliver an innovative modular residential community for a tight site in central London?

Metropolitan Workshop is working with an award-winning and specialist steel-frame off-site company, so a high-level finish can be achieved. Complicated areas such as utility cupboards are prototyped for comprehensive testing before modules enter manufacture. This 27-floor project will be the tallest private off-site building in Europe when completed in May. Pocket Living is a truly innovative thinking developer; it first championed the well-designed 1B1P type apartments, sold with a discount to eligible residents in the local area. This tight site is heavily constrained by a sewer, primary electricity substation and an existing river wall. The pile and concrete core design have been considered to add mass to the top of the building to aid wind resistance.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The building diagram arranges three river-facing homes and two south-facing homes around a central triangular core with naturally lit and ventilated corridors on all three sides. The remaining side to the road contains lifts and is significantly higher than the other 25 and 27 storey parts for townscape reasons. A striking sawtooth design to the cladding, frameless glass and service yard door makes a really positive contribution to the existing streetscape.

Mapleton Crescent by Metropolitan Workshop

Mapleton Crescent by Metropolitan Workshop

Mapleton Crescent by Metropolitan Workshop

Successfully negotiating height with the planning authority required attractive materials and high-quality design. Metropolitan Workshop worked with ceramicist Loraine Rutt and NBK to develop a bespoke green glaze which visually changes in appearance under differing light conditions through the day. Three contrasting profiles of large terracotta tiles are used – ribbed, micro-ribbed and pleated, to aid this continuous sense of pattern play.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new modular co-living scheme in urban China?

Successful co-living proposals should create a variety of internal shared amenity spaces and external terraces. Successful off-site proposals should be simple, ‘Design for Manufacture’ ready, allow use of recycled materials and integration of energy efficient technologies. Aim to stack apartment types and services and above all, align the cladding grid with structural grid and avoid clumsy extrusions.