About Dr. Zhao
Dr. Windy Zhao
Wei (Windy) Zhao is an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a doctorate degree in Architecture. Zhao’s research focuses on the built environment of underrepresented social groups and issues of social equity and sustainability, and cultural diversity in the context of globalization and urbanization. Incorporating theories and methods from Architecture, urban studies, historic preservation, heritage studies, and anthropology, Zhao’s work expands the body of knowledge in architectural and environmental design research by envisioning the built environment not as simply technocratic entities, but rather as contextual, relational, and cultural, and sometimes consanguineous, constructs and a system of relationships, activities, local knowledge, cultural values, and meanings. Zhao has published two books: Historical Path of Yanxia (Tsinghua University Press, 2013) and Home beyond the House: Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China (Routledge, 2022). In addition to research, Zhao is a licensed architect in the United States. Zhao also runs a multidisciplinary design, research, and consulting practice, MPlacez, aims to provide innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to making places that are culturally rooted and socially sustainable.
- Ph.D. in Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Master of Architecture, Syracuse University
- Bachelor of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Research and publications
Ongoing and upcoming research
Cultural Meanings of Interconnected Wooden Residential Structures in Remote Rural China
As the Principal Investigator, Zhao recently received a grant a two-year grant (142,620.3) from the Endangered Wooden Architecture Programme (hosted by Oxford Brookes University and delivered in collaboration with CyArk) to examine the traditional built environment of an ethnic minority living in remote rural China and their cultural traditions. Intersecting advanced digital technologies and disciplines of the humanities, this project aims to not only create a digital representation of a living vernacular settlement, but also uncover the meanings of vernacular places from residents’ perspectives.
Home beyond the House: Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China
Based on extended fieldwork and archival research conducted over 12 years, this project examines the meaning of home for people living in vernacular settlements in rural China, who belong to a social group that is underrepresented in scholarship and underserved in modern China. Drawing upon over 600 photographs taken by residents along with their life stories, the study links the concepts of place, home, and tradition into an overarching argument: the meaning of home rests on the ideas of tradition, including identity, consanguinity, collectivity, social relations, land ownership, and rural lifestyle. More importantly, this study empowers rural residents by giving them a voice.
Transforming Shophouses: Transpacific Cultural Exchange between Southern China and Western North America
This project examines the transpacific cultural exchange as manifested in shophouse designs in southern China and Western North United States, and their representations of cultural identities. The project traces the development of shophouse in southern China, and the transformation of such a built form in Seattle. This project argues that Chinese-owned single-room-occupancy residential hotels in Seattle not only functioned as “home” for Chinese immigrants, but also were an assemblage of Chinese culture and a representation of immigrants’ identities through embodying the ideas of the shophouse in southern China.
Books (Peer Reviewed)
Zhao, Wei. Home Beyond the House: Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China. New York: Routledge, 2022.
Zhao, Wei. 岩下老街 [The Historical Path of Yanxia]. Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2013.
Book Chapters (Invited and Peer Reviewed)
Zhao, Wei. “System of Settings: Framework to Study Vernacular Settlements and Cultural Landscapes.” In Theorizing Built Form and Culture: The Legacy of Amos Rapoport, edited by Kapila D Silva and Nisha Fernando. New York: Routledge, 2024.
Zhao, Wei. “Transforming Shophouses: Transpacific Cultural Exchange between Southern China and Western North America [店屋的转型: 中美建筑文化交流的体现].” In Borders across Borderlines: Chinese and Foreign Architectural Cultures in Mutual Reception [边非缘：中国建筑的跨文化观察], edited by Yi Zhou (in both English and Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai People Press, 2023.
Zhao, Wei. “Local versus National Interests in the Promotion and Management of a Heritage Site: A Case Study from Zhejiang Province, China.” In Cultural Heritage Politics in China, edited by Helaine Silverman and Tami Blumenfield, 73-100. New York: Springer, 2013.
Selected Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Zhao, Wei. “From Sacred Wu-Yue to ‘The Centre of Heaven and Earth’: Constructing an Imperial Landscape and a Global Heritage in China.” Heritage & Society (2023): 1-20. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/2159032X.2023.2230833
Zhao, Wei. “从聚族而居到中西合璧: 浙江方岩民居的发展变化 [From Communal House to Western Style Villa: Development of Residential Structures in Fangyan, Zhejiang Province].” 建筑史学刊 Journal of Architecture History, no. 2 (2023): 68-78.
Zhao, Wei. “Heritage as Narratives: A Case Study on Tourism Development in Longji Rice Terraces, China.” Proceedings for the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture 109th Annual Meeting (2021): 295-300.
Zhao, Wei. “Avant-Garde Architecture in the Rural Hinterlands of China.” Proceedings for the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture 108th Annual Meeting, (2020): 530-536.
Zhao, Wei. “Politicized Gentrification: The New Urban Renewal Movement in Beijing.” The Plan Journal 4, no. 1 (2019): 1-20.
Zhao, Wei. “Behind the Sealed-up Doors: The New Urban Renewal Movement in Beijing.” Proceedings for the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture 106th Annual Meeting (2018): 74-79.
Zhao, Wei. “Place-Bound Relationship: The Missing Components in the ‘New Socialist Countryside.’” Proceedings for the Architectural Research Centers Consortium Annual Meeting (2017): 164-171.
Zhao, Wei. “再论传统的本质：传统文化在当代环境下的生存与发展 [Re-Examining the Essence of Tradition: Sustainability and Development of Cultural Tradition in Present Day].” 遗产与保护研究 [Research on Heritage and Preservation] 2, no. 2 (2017): 46-51.
Zhao, Wei. “Beyond the Invariable Style: The Development of Residential Architecture in Yanxia Village, Zhejiang Province, China.” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 26, no. 2. (2015): 41-58.
Zhao, Wei. “中国式’建造’: 以国外文化遗产研究理论来审视国内近几年开展的文化遗产保护项目 [China-Style Construction: Using the Concept of Heritage to Examine the Recent Preservation Projects in China].” 南方建筑 [South Architecture] no. 1 (2015): 24-29.
Their Homes & Their Stories: Transformation of Life, Place and Tradition in Rural China, School of Design Faculty Show, Louisiana Tech University, Fall 2022.
Architecture for Spatial Justice: Students’ Work from Arch434 Space, Place, and Spatial Justice (curator), School of Design, Louisiana Tech University, May 2022, 2023.
Urban Forms & Urban Challenges: Students’ Work from Arch411 Planning and Urban Design Theory (curator), School of Design, Louisiana Tech University, November 2019, 2021, 2022.
At the Tip of the Pencil: Travel Sketches and Preparatory Drawings of Architecture of the World, solo-exhibition, drawings, School of Architecture, University of Utah (as part of the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student), March 2017.
Chinese Vernacular Tradition: Selected Work from the World Through My Eyes, solo-exhibition (as part of Chinese Cultural Week), photography and texts, Salt Lake County Library, October 2016.
The World Through My Eyes: One Photography and One Story for Every City I Visited, solo-exhibition, photography and texts, The Illini-Union, Champaign, IL, February 2014
Rome Underneath My Feet, solo-exhibition, photography, Indi Go Gallery, Champaign, IL, April 2012
Teaching and advising
- Arch 473: Senior Design Studio