China, Shanghai, Tongji DESIS Lab

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Starts: 22 March, 2016
Duration :
Instructors: China, Shanghai, Tongji DESIS Lab
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DESIS Lab Presentation

Name: Tongji DESIS Lab

City: Shanghai

Country: China

Director: Lou Yongqi, Dean of College of Design and Innovation Tongji University,

Executive Vice Director / Coordinator: Ni Minqing, Lecturer of College of Design and Innovation Tongji University,

Wechat official: DESISLABTJ

Contact email:

Hosting institution:
College of Design and Innovation, Tongji University
281 Fuxin Road, Shanghai, China
Tel: 0086 21 65983432


Lou Yongqi, Ni Minqing, Francesca Valsecchi, Yang Hao, Eun Ji Cho, Ding Junfeng, Xu Peng, Qu Huiyi, Wang Liyun

We funded Tongji DESIS Lab in 2009 in the endeavour of bringing the knowledge and the practice of DESIS network to China, which at the time was not only the bigger of the emergent economies but also a promising actor in the design education landscape. Together with other five leading design schools, the Lab has been the active promoter of a design culture caring about sustainability and social innovation in the country, which had been then inspiring and transforming design education and related entrepreneurial practice in the decade to come.

Over the years, Tongji DESIS Lab has developed full-scale projects with a focus on rural-urban interaction, public space and urban resilience, urban food sustainability: these are still critical domains of research in China, although the country had evolved from an emerging economy to a stable global player. They represent real challenges: in a fast-changing social and economic scenario, design-driven research and innovation ought inquiry at development models which seek for resilience over disruption.

Our projects testify this challenge: first, the flagship project of Design Harvests (social entrepreneurship in rural China), that emerged in 2007 as applied research, and it has developed to the current stage of social business activity. After a decade, rural-urban issues are still of significant concern and need to tackle urban resource management from the point of view of social and relational concerns, as well as to consider the very practical limitation of material sustainability within the growing urban landscape.

Then, the lab focuses on urban innovation and in particular in the role of public space within trends of commodification and gentrification of urban areas: in China, the qualification of public space includes a wide range of cultural, social, political and ecological challenges due to a necessary transfer from traditional management to innovative management. The pilot project Open Your Space (OYS) funded in 2015 proposes a community-led placemaking approach in order to create the “third place”, and a new paradigm of spatial and social resilience. Design is used as a driver to create collective and engaged actions to shape the public space in order to maximize the shared value for the community and support in this way the reduced resources from institutional interventions.

Finally, the most recent project of NICE 2035 (Neighborhood of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship towards 2035), is an experiment to make a residential neighborhood to evolve into a design-driven citizens community, aiming to produce social innovation which can inspire and orient city-making processes towards sustainable and collaborative cities, as an alternative asset to economic exploitation.

These represent the flagship projects of the lab, which comprises a series of more specific design and research interventions, fed by students’ research actions all year around. The activities include international collaboration and teaching exchanges, that allow the Lab to collect data, examples and concepts about sustainable development for mega-cities, and create a network of experts and scholars, and a continuous stream of activities to push dissemination and public conversation about sustainable cities and social innovation urban practices.

Beside of these flagship projects, which a variety of professors and students are contributing to, the lab works as a collector of various initiatives within College of Design and Innovation Tongji University (D&I) transdisciplinary curriculum and the variety of research labs, as well as a networking agent with initiatives that happen in the city and by the civil society.



Primary Research Areas

  • Urban Rural Interaction
  • Public space and Urban Resilience
  • Urban food sustainability
  • Digital Social Innovation


Research Projects (active)

  • Design Harvests: Urban rural interaction design research project (2008-ongoing)
  • Open Your Space (OYS): Design Intervention in Siping Community (Shanghai) (2015-ongoing)
  • Shanghai Streetfood Heritage (2013-2018)
  • N-ICE 2035 (2018-ongoing)
  • Cities After Cars (2015-ongoing)



Projects and Activities

  • NICE 2035, Open Your Space two projects participated “Shanghai Sample –future lifestyle” exhibition at Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne, 21 March-22 April 2019
  • Ping Pang: Urban\Rural Community Building for Our Common Future, Triennale, Milano, February 2019
  • Open Your Space: Design Intervention in Siping Community (the forth phase), December, 2018
  • Design for Collaborative Cities conference, co-organized by DESIS Network, October, 2018
  • Shanghai Tongji-Huangpu School of Design and Innovation, September, 2017
  • Cities after cars Research Seminar, 2016-2018
  • N-ICE 2035 (Neighborhood of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship towards 2035) project found, January, 2018
  • City Science Lab @Shanghai, in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, November, 2017
  • Open Your Space: Design Intervention in Siping Community (the third phase), November, 2017
  •  “OPEN YOUR SPACE: Design Intervention for Urban Resilience” Book Published by Tongji Press, September, 2017
  • DESIS workshop “Design for social innovation: emerging issues and practices from DESIS Network”, Tongji university, Shanghai, 2017
  • New Center of Contemporary Jewelry and Fashion culture (NoCC) found, SPace, Siping community Shanghai, 2016
  • Open Your Space: Design intervention in Siping Community (the second phase), November, 2016
  • Open Your Space: Design Intervention in Siping Community (the first phase), December, 2015
  • LIFT China conference, 2014
  • Community Supported Agriculture Conference, Shanghai, 2013?
  • “From Sky To Earth” Seminar + DESIS Toolkit, 2012
  • Radical Design Week and Sustainability Exhibition, 2013, Shanghai
  • Up-cycling Workshop (2013, 2014)
  • Mobile services for community supported agriculture research and design project (2011-2013) with Nokia
  • Rural Urban Interaction Exhibition, Shenzhen Hongkong BI-City Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture 2013
  • DESIS Philosophy Talk #1.2: “Emerging Aesthetics” 2012
  • International Exhibition (Helsinki 2012 during World Design Capital)
  • 2nd DESIS symposium “Transformation Design for Public”, 2011
  • Tongji University-Aalto University-DuocUC University workshop: DESIS2011 Chongming social innovation workshop, Aug 25th – Sep 8th / 2011
  • China creative industry Forum, October 16th-17th 2010
  • Chinese Creative Industries Practitioners research (2009-2010)
  • DESIS Forum at UN-pavilion, Shanghai EXPO 2010
  • Cumulus Conference and DESIS session and exhibition, Sep. 7th-10th 2010
  • Aalto Labs workshop, May-Sep 2010
  • Next Design-social innovation and sustainable design International exhibition, Oct. 15th-21th 2009
  • DESIS Forum @ Shanghai: Connecting the world: design for social innovation and sustainability The second DESIS-China Meeting, Oct. 19th 2009
  • Chongming DESIS Workshop: Services for a new generation of creative entrepreneurs, Sept. 25th-Oct. 14th / 2009
  • Elope: The Chongming rural kitchen workshop, Sep 14th-24th 2009
  • DESIS Forum and Exhibition, Shanghai, May 26th 2009
  • Studio TAO-WKAR Workshop: Defining new typologies of rural public space, Shanghai, April 2009
  • Workshop on Chongming for sustainable design research support by China-US Center of sustainable development, Shanghai, June 2008