Annual Paul Reid Lecture in Urban Design 2020

The March UTZON lecture is available online:

Shanghai, New York, Sydney – Humanizing High Density

Zhizhe Yu  MUDD2002
Co-founder & Managing Director
New York, Shanghai, Barcelona
Wednesday,  4 March 2020, 6.30 for 7.00pm
Leighton Hall, Scientia
AI.SpaceFactory, GZShipyard-UrbanCloud


AI.SpaceFactory, Optics Valley Innovation Center for Shui On Properties

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.

During past decades and until today, tall buildings have been considered one of the most effective solutions to accommodate rapid urban growth and to increase density. However, people tend to see this as a solution adopted ‘out of necessity’ – not desire – that ignores the social, cultural, environmental & well-being concerns generated by the pace and scale of urbanization.

High-rise urbanism is criticized for creating cities without character and culture; where people live in repetitive spaces and thus lose connection with local context, nature and other people – in other words, high-rise high-density cities have become globalized and placeless.

We are faced with the ‘inconvenient truth’ of climate change, hyper-urbanization, and rising economic and social challenges. Instead of designing tall buildings and cities that are simply the product of necessity, we should use the power of design to create cities unique to their own local context, climate, culture, society and historical significance, and invent new high-density spaces and neighbourhoods that are accessible, responsive and personal.

We come from many cultures on one planet—cities should be designed to celebrate our diversity and shape our humanity as we work towards a shared future.

Following the 2020 Reid Lecture, Zhizhe Yu will open the exhibition to mark the 25th Anniversary of the UNSW Master of Urban Development & Design Program, ‘MUDD25 Urban Intensity | Urban Design – Sydney | Beijing | Hangzhou’ in the BE Gallery, Red Centre West Wing.

Zhizhe Yu is co-founder and managing director of AI.SpaceFactory based in New York, Shanghai and Barcelona. A graduate of the UNSW Master of Urban Development & Design Program, Zhizhe established AI’s China office in Shanghai where she leads a team of architects on city-defining projects. Educated as both an architect and urban designer, Zhizhe relishes a hands-on approach to making spaces that contribute to cities and to society.

Her comprehensive design and technical expertise across multiple building types in every project phase from procurement to initial design and execution has enabled Zhizhe to successfully deliver challenging projects in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Singapore.

Previously a Director at Kohn Pedersen Fox, New York Zhizhe’s achievements include a 9-year commitment as project director of an international multidisciplinary design team in multiple locations that brought to completion the 599 metre-tall PingAn Finance Center (PAFC) in Shenzhen, China.

At KPF, Zhizhe also managed Citic Pacific’s Shanghai Shipyard redevelopment, completed and occupied in 2016. The project consists of three towers which house the regional headquarters of the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world, China Life, the largest insurance company in China, and Singapore’s United Overseas Bank.

Prior to joining KPF New York in 2007, Zhizhe worked at PTW Sydney on projects which included the Watercube for the Beijing Olympics, and the Beijing Olympics Village.

Since co-founding AI.SpaceFactory in 2017, Zhizhe has extended her experience and expertise in creating the PingAn Asset Insurance Tower, phase III of the PingAn Finance Center, Shenzhen. Other projects she is currently managing include a 380m supertall in Shenzhen with China Merchants Group, Optics Valley Innovation Center in Wuhan with Shui On Properties, a supertall in Wuhan with OCT, and a twin-tower project in Shanghai with Jinmao.

Before undertaking the UNSW Master of Urban Development & Design degree in 2001-2002, Zhizhe graduated Bachelor of Architecture from the Beijing Institute for Civil Engineering & Architecture. She is a registered architect in NSW, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and LEED AP certified.