Tongji Construction Festival

A team of ABP Students, led by Dr Sofia Colabella, was awarded the bronze medal at the 2019 Tongji International Construction Festival and 2019 "Fengyuzhu" Plastic Polypropylene Sheet Competition. Congratulations!


The Faculty of Architecture, building and Planning offered first-year BDes students the opportunity to participate to the 2019 Tongji International Construction Festival & 2019 “Fengyuzhu” Plastic Polypropylene Sheet Competition, to form one of the 49 international teams - the only Australian school attending the Festival - in Shanghai. The teams were asked to design ‘the pavilion with patio’ taking inspiration from the poem ‘Butterfly Lovers’ by Ouyang Xiu (Song Dynasty):

“How deep is the deep courtyard? Willows shrouded in smoky mists, like endless layers of curtain.”

The ABP team proposed an ‘active-bending’ structure, translating the typology of the traditional Chinese courtyard homes called Siheyuan, into a curved design that provided a sense of threshold, a central area for communication and neighbourhood participation.


For first-year students, this is a highly valuable experience, as it simulates a real-world competition scenario, such as skills in fast and reliable team collaboration, confidence in presenting the design; it also gives students the remarkable experience of building what is likely to be their first architecture.

Students shared details of their experience:

Why did you choose to participate in the Tongji International Construction Festival?

I’d seen some really fascinating works being done from previous festivals, I knew TICF is an opportunity  to really apply my skills and creativity in a practical construction, which I’d never had before. Also, it is a chance to communicate with students all over the world. Being an international student from China myself, having a chance to go back and to see how teams from different cultural backgrounds may think and construct differently was going to be an interesting experience.

How has your experience in Tongji shaped your understanding of the construction discipline?

I learned many things including that complexity does not necessarily breed a complete and resolved project. Sometimes it is the simple stuff that gets people's heads turning. Also, planning goes a long way; time is a very important factor that many people don't seem to realise!

Were there opportunities to network during the festival?

There were opportunities to network such as the city tour, group lectures with members from other teams and a semi-formal dinner event. There was also a great sense of community  when we were working in the workshops during pre-fabrication.

What would you say to someone thinking about pursuing a similar opportunity as the Construction Festival?

I would strongly recommend and encourage students to pursue and seek an opportunity like the Construction Festival. You will be able to design a project of your own with your team which is a really  satisfying achievement but you will also be able to look and learn from the ways students from other countries have created their design, understanding the similarities and differences of ways of architectural learning in the different architectural schools. It’s also a great opportunity to build an architectural network. During the Festival, I was not only able to build a strong relationship between my teammates, but I also had to chance to make friends with students from other architectural schools in different countries such as China, France, and many more, who I am still in contact with.

What was the key learning you took away from your experience?

Design is a diverse discipline and several elements and skills are required to fulfil a project. The experience also reaffirmed the idea that a career in design is not a linear thing but can be very diverse in terms of skills and projects.

What is a dream project/something you’d really like to work on?

Some sort of abstract and permanent design project, where the parameters can be shifted to fit the design brief, having total control to create what you would like.

These links show images of the preparations and the final design coming together

Coordinator: Dr Sofia Colabella
Tutor: Dr Alessandro Liuti 
Cayley Chan
Helena Cui
Michael Dang
Kalvis Svolmanis
Sally Parsons
Lily Zhou