Contact Us

If you have feedback or queries regarding the NUS M/Arch Gradshow 2021, please contact us at

For additional information on the NUS M/Arch Programme, please visit

Fortress Besieged

Chen Heyang

- Adj. Assoc. Prof. Bobby Wong Chong Thai


Shanxi province, as one of the top provinces which is abundant in coal, has played significant role in excavating coal mines in China. However, the province is now falling into the “resource curse”. The economic development of Datong city in Shanxi province has always highly and almost solely relied on coal mining and its related industries. Due to the environmental concern, China is gradually switching to cleaner energy resources instead of coal. The high unemployment rate, and the lack of alternative industries all led to the economic recession.

The mayor of the city carried out the regime to revive the historical culture value of the city, and thus promise to prosper in the service and consumptive industries like tourism. One of the biggest strokes was to rebuild the ancient city wall by entombing the relic with modern bricks as a reification of progress from the recession of coal industry.

Thesis Statement 

The thesis is a critique on this strategy of museumification the city from what was once real, fearful and embodied with suffering to a purified consumptive culture in an abstract way. The phantasmagoria of coal mines in the reified city wall, and the by-products like coal gangue are used as critical tools. Masterplan and architecture design of the main exhibition hall are carried out to promote a switch from consumption culture to cultural consumption. Coal gangue, the by-product of coal mining performs as a media to reveal the specificity of the city and the container to hold cultural events.

Supervisor's comments:

This project builds on an ex-mayor plans for the city of Datong, Shanxi Province, China. Datong is a city built on coal mining. However, given the Chinese Government plans to reduce coal as fuel source, the mayor realises unless Datong shifts its economic base, Datong can be emptied out in due time. While his thinking was correct, the mayor’s plan is to rejuvenate the city by Disnefication. While not disagreeing with the Mayor’s strategy, Heyang’s thesis rejuvenation plans center on coal or more specifically coal gangue or coal waste. Much of the architectural form is the result of her attempt to imitate how coal gangue is managed and rendered safe and secure.

- Adj. Assoc. Prof. Bobby Wong Chong Thai
Chen Heyang

Seize the moment.