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Q&A with Yu Tang

Posted July 2021

What drew you to WashU?
I chose Sam Fox School’s MUD program because of its excellent curriculum, which is very compatible with my interests. And of course because of the generous fellowship.

What interests you most about your studies in urban design?
I am very concerned about social justice and interested in sustainable urban development.

What’s been the most memorable studio or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
I think it’s all very memorable because I really got a lot out of it.

I really enjoyed this year of study. The first semester was the one that opened my eyes and my urban sensibilities. We had a lot of reading assignments in the first semester, and I learned a lot about the history of modern urban development and some very critical urban thinking from the readings that were carefully selected by the professors. I benefited greatly from the first semester’s studio, led by associate professor Linda Samuels’ insights on the inequitable development of St. Louis. In the second semester, in professor John Hoal’s studio, I really enjoyed the in-depth discussion of urban sustainability in the class, looking at Phoenix and thinking about how urban systems can be resilient in the face of future extreme heat. I also enjoyed with associate professor Patty Heyda, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about Ferguson and to express my thoughts about the city through drawing.

I am currently working on my summer studio, which is very special, especially in the early stages when [senior lecturer] Jonathan Stitelman asked us to summarize our design philosophy and put it to the test in two very different places (Kampala and Zurich). I was impressed by the sharp contrast between these two cities. I also felt that the last studio gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I had learned before and gain a deeper understanding of the different cities by understanding their contexts.

What have you learned as an urban design student that you’d be most lost without?
Systematic thinking. The apple you see is no longer an apple. I think this is the biggest difference from my studies in architecture. When I was studying architecture, I always thought that architecture should not be seen in isolation from the city, but should focus on its surrounding environment. But when I studied urban design, I really came to appreciate the importance of systems, that everything is interconnected. This way of thinking also made me see my life differently.

Talk about your experience in the summer urban design studio.
I really enjoyed the summer studio, and I appreciated that in the last semester we put our eyes on the world, especially on two places that, in my opinion, are very different. This strong contrast gave me a lot to think about and guided me to learn more about social justice. It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to travel to Kampala, which I was really looking forward to. But I had a great time working with the students from Kampala, and I enjoyed discussing their perspectives on the city of Kampala.

Are there particular areas of research that you have focused on in the MUD program? Any specific projects you’d like to share?
I am very concerned with social justice, and most of my work revolves around this theme. From my undergraduate work on “invisible city/street” to most of my research in the MUD program—“Beloved Community in the Ville/Radical Map-Urban Violence in Ferguson/Cooling Paradise in Phoenix/Privatization in Nakasero Market”—have all centered on it.

What’s impact has the Sam Fox Ambassadors Graduate Fellowship program had on your educational path and experiences at Washington University?
I am very fortunate to have the Sam Fox Ambassadors Graduate Fellowship, which has greatly facilitated my research in my area of interest, especially at this particular time of a global pandemic. I have really enjoyed my studies here, and although it is distance learning, it has not dampened my enthusiasm for acquiring knowledge. The program was a really good fit for me, and I was also a good fit for the program, which gave me ample ground to gain valuable insight from my professors and classmates, as well as ample opportunities to study social justice in different cities.

What do you appreciate most about the Sam Fox School?

Black-and-white architectural drawing illustrating fluid connections and buildings within the city.

For the Global Urbanism Studio, 2021.

Black and white section drawing of Brupbacher outdoor market, showing people outside a gelateria as well as underground water purifier and water storage.

For the Global Urbanism Studio, 2021.

Section drawing of a multi-level structure, shaped like a human figure, delineating a process of production from the mind down through the body.

For the course Elements of Urban Design, 2020.

Drawing of two multi-tier buildings on a site.

For the course Metropolitan Design Elements, 2020.