Professor Edward Ng on the One University One Village Program
On Wednesday April 12, Professor Edward Ng gave a luncheon talk to Morningside Fellows and Junior Fellows about his work building safe and sustainable infrastructure in villages in China. Professor Ng has taught architecture at CUHK for two decades. His work in rural China began with taking students to Gansu province in 2005, where they built a bridge (with the help of locals) that children in the area could use to access their school. Over the years his initiatives have grown to building bridges, houses, and schools. His architectural style emphasizes ventilation that preserves air quality and cool temperatures, while also seeking to understand the local ground type and vernacular architectural traditions to build the most sustainable structures for each locality. He described a few different methods that architects use to analyze ground composition and then decide on a building location and method.
He aims to train many students to build such structures, rather than maximizing the number of bridges he builds during his own career. He also spoke about his work training men and women in the villages he visited, to build houses and to make structures earthquake resistant in areas such as Sichuan province. He recalled that in most of his rural projects, women workers have been more capable and diligent at construction projects than male workers. His architectural solutions in earthquake prone areas have been affordable and effective, to the extent that local governments have adjusted construction regulations to facilitate the rammed-earth method of building that he advocates. His ‘One University One Village’ program has worked with several universities and NGOs, to build rural infrastructure in China that reflects UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Audience members asked many questions about protecting earthen structures from moisture, student involvement from CUHK, and the business model his projects follow (a charity dependent on annual donations). In response to questions about support from the university, he described how CUHK enables him to spend half the academic year teaching four courses, and then the other half focusing on his architectural projects. Audience members were interested in how the university metric of ‘impact factor’ (tracking the number of recent citations) relates to his research, and how there is a growing desirability for the tangible impact his rural infrastructure provides.