Brainstorm… ideas flood!!!

“factors of intensity influence ideation during processes of empathy”

 Preparing questions

 Once we had a point of view and some sort of ideas of what could be done in the site, we needed to know all we could from 3 different stake holders around the pit (community, Recycling Company that owes a part of the pit and the government). We did a brainstorm based on what we extract from day one to get as many questions as we could to ask the stakeholders, distribute those questions in different groups and proceed to get that info in several interviews. All this process was time limited and as concise as we could, which helped our local pairs to translate all the questions to Mandarin.



 3d model

As part of one of the 5×5 exercises we put all our basic Ideas in a 3d model. We needed to create a basic 3d representation of what we wanted to do in the pit. We had 5 minutes to create the model using various tools. The Idea was to have an extra means to communicate our ideas to the stakeholders and test the concepts with them. Some of us took the model to the stakeholders; some others took pictures of them and showed used them to base all the questions we had.



After our visit to the government building making the respective interviews to the people involved in the pit issue, we proceed to brainstorm as quick as we could all our findings in a big paper. The idea was to get as much as possible findings in the table as quick as we could so the concepts were simple. We had much more ideas than we thought so we had to divide them in 5 categories to understand how they were related to each other. After that intense process of getting all the ideas classified in paper the next step was easier and we moved to create our empathy map.

Empathy map

Once we had our findings categorized, we tried and extract all that information to understand the government’s position. According to what we found we extract as many concepts as we could read on the categories and then we classified them again in an empathy map. We had again heaps of concepts that gave us a clear understanding of the situation and what needed to be done in the space. After finishing the map we were ready to present, just before the deadline. 


Could I borrow your brain for a couple secs?

“Factors of state-change influence communication when you were researching the scope and site for the week’s challenge”

Looking from the weird angle

While collecting information in the pit it was really helpful to get out of the comfort zone and try and getting pictures from different perspectives. It helped us to notice very interesting situations and explain our findings to the group easier through images.




We were a bit blocked when sharing our ideas with our peers after the visit to the pit, communication was not flowing easily. We took some coloured pencils out and tried and helped ourselves drawing some shapes while talking. It worked nicely differentiating ideas and concepts through the colours and to shape some basic concepts that we found around the pit.


Past projects

One of our peers, Cei, was trying to explain a concept to us but it was not quite clear. He brought then a big print out of one of his own projects from a previous subject to base his arguments on. It was amazing how our communication changed in the moment we started talking over the graphics of his project. Our thoughts and ideas were much clearer and got some new concepts around the construction industry in China.

Put ourselves in the place

I would say that the most valuable state change exercise we did yesterday was trying and putting ourselves on the people around the pit’s shoes. We brainstormed about what people in China are looking for in terms of housing to have a good quality of life. We imagine a hypothetical scenario in which we were buying a house around the pit. Through this exercise we got our scope and feel closer to the issue itself. In some way we could say we empathize more with the space and the people after the state-change exercise.


Day 1 – Intense


For the past 20 years, every morning of every day, as soon as I wake up I always start my day by instinctively pulling the curtains and opening the windows. I sometimes thought about why I do so, at first I thought it was because I needed fresh air to turn my brain on, but lately I realized what I really look for is a piece of sky. I truly need to know how the sky is doing to assess how I feel. I guess this is why I’ve been so happy since I moved to Sydney. Nothing beats a clear blue sky.

This morning when I “went for the window” I had a moment in which I felt lost, and then I remembered: you are in China! I could not see past 200 meters, and all I saw was gray. I did not understand if it was fog – or mist – or smog … I just felt cold and unfamiliar. Somehow uncomfortable but respectful and curious. I just knew this was going to be an intense day and I wasn’t wrong.

I rushed to class felling freezing and as soon as I got there I started to warm up. So many nice faces smiling at me, asking me many questions to which I wanted to answer. Their kindness stroke me immediately, as I started to fell less lost and more curious. As we were divided into groups my team members introduced themselves with their English names and as I talked to them about the project, their individual research, their expectations and goals, I found myself trying to remember their real names, the ones I could not pronounce properly. I felt frustrated – how can I not remember?

After a very interesting lecture by Professor Hu Wenhui on the urban design history of Dalian, Xanadu, Betty, Ulissys and Micheal (our team members) took Daniel and I out for lunch! What a delight! My first hotpot ever – so exciting! I had no idea of what we had ordered as I could not read a word on the menu, I did not know what to expect but as I watched the waitress display all the food on the table I was amazed by the smells, the colors, the textures – so beautiful and intriguing!


And then came the afternoon … our visit to the site.

During the drive there I was thinking about what to expect, I tried to picture it in my mind … but when we finally got there I understood that this was nothing I had ever seen before, this was nothing I had ever immagined. For a moment I thought I was about to experience the Apocalypse. All that devastated land and all those piles of rubbish left me speechless and furious. How could this happen? How is this OK? How can people live here? How can they accept this?

And at this moment my emotions went crazy. I felt sorry and lucky. I felt sad, I felt upset, I felt responsible, I felt appalled. I felt I needed to do something.

Still on the site I spoke to my new Chinese team mates and I asked them how they felt. They felt somewhat like me, just more positive. They clearly understand the magnitude of the issue and they know that with this project they have a chance to change things. They can actually do something about it. Back in class, we sat at a table to talk abut our first impressions and ideas. Communicating my feelings and at the same time wanting to be respectful was very important. We all agreed on one point: the mine we saw today is a huge scar for our planet, the people of Dalian and the Government. We need to change this.


Our diversities came out through the ideation process. Our culture, our personal background, our formal disciplinary training, are all elements that played a key role in the way in which we came up with ideas. What was obvious to me, wasn’t to them – and vice versa. This allowed us to open our minds and observe the situation from different perspectives. When this happened a deeper and greater understanding of the issue developed and all the different ideas we generated were able to feed into one another and resulted in a great initial concept.

I was very pleased with the quality of the interaction we were able to achieve today and I am very curious to see where this is going to lead us.


Forming The Best Snow Ball (BW1-Diversity)

Coming to China I was expecting a large language barrier and was worried about the progress that would be made in a quick fire 5 days.

After 1 day my worries are put to rest and I actually feel ashamed that all the students here can hold advanced conversations in English while I can only say a few words of Mandarin that are not always pronounced correctly.

When I used a word that one of my Chinese counterparts were not sure of there would be a flurry of words between other group members as they drew upon all of their experience with the English language. Every time at least one person would know the Chinese equivalent and the whole group understood.

This is the same when ideating. All the Chinese students bounce off each other so fast that sometimes it is hard to know when one person finishes and the next starts.
Taking an initial idea of what we could propose for the huge hole in front of us, their architecture background spun it in a completely different direction that seemed to be 200% better in less than a minute, with Giulia drawing from her design experience to suggest a final tweak that put a thick icing on an already very good cake.

In summary if you want a very good idea for a solution, come up with a starting point and let other people snowball with it. When it reaches the bottom of the mountain you will have a very rounded and very large snow ball to play with.



Let the Chinese snowball with a word like shampoo and they come up with something so much better!


My Brief time as the Rat King…


[CZ1] Upon being inducted into the Dalian University of Technology (DUT) family, we all were taken out to dine on some of the local cuisine. During the course of the meal, I enquired to one of our hosts as to how my last name (Doig) would be approximated in Chinese. I was in formed that the closest word/name would be simply Dui, meaning “rat”. From that moment forth I was pronounced the “rat man” of the group. I felt that if I was going to be called a rat, I may as well be their leader. I was informed that the word “wang” meant king. SO, I then declared my chinese name to be Dui Wang. From that moment, the Rat King was born..

It was not until the next morning that I discovered that I had misheard my host’s interpretation of “Doig”. “Dui” actually refers to “right” not “rat”. From that moment, I felt that I had lost my title of being the rat king… I took solice in the fact that  could now call myself “Mr Right”,

During the course of the day, we visited the site of the project that we are looking at (a giant hole in an area of Dalian). We ventured into the quarry, where I immediately felt that there was potential for an adult playground/paintball adventure park. Not many others seemed to agree, an I’m sure that the ones that did were just humouring me…. 

I found that physically visiting the site (a state change) really helped to influence my creativity regarding the ideation for the potential solutions for the project. I’m not 100% sure, but it is possible that finding out that I was no longer the rat king helped to bring me back down to earth, clear my mind, and focus on the task at hand…

CO-OPOLIS Workshop in Dalian – Day 1

To kick off the first day of the CO-OPOLIS Workshop in Dalian, cultures mixed as the Australian students were given Chinese names by their Chinese counterparts, and vice versa. A T-shaped profile stoker followed, enabling us to get to know the breadth and depth of each other’s skills.

A short lecture on the “Urban design history of Dalian” by Professor Hu Wenhui (given in both Mandarin and English) gave us an idea of the 3 major stages of Dalian’s development (the 1800s and early 1900s, 1920-post WWII, and post WWII-current), as well as an understanding of the influences of the Russian and Japanese occupations on the city’s architecture. After a short break (during which the Australians flocked to the coffee machine), Prelector Zhang Yu spoke about the role mining has played in Dalian’s development, and it’s ongoing effects on urban and rural environments in China.

The afternoon saw the whole group heading out on a bus tour of the city. The first stop was the site to be rehabilitated – Brown Field. I think I speak for many when I say we were shocked and awed by the scale, environmental degradation and poverty of the site. The many factors and stakeholders which must be balanced and considered make the site’s redevelopment an incredibly interesting and challenging project.

The bus tour continued into the center of the city through Zhongshan Square, then down to the docklands where we saw Warehouse No. 15 and the construction site of a new Conference Hall, which will host the Davos Conference. The views from the drive along the coastline were slightly obscured by the mist hanging over the hills, but enough could be seen to appreciate the amazing scenery.

For dinner we had an amazing feast at a fancy restaurant – Dalian’s famous seafood, as well as many types of meats, vegetables, dumplings, and fruit were on offer. Some teams even took the opportunity to get to work.

Back at DUT, the groups sat down to collate their observations on the site visit, before capping off the day by each giving short presentations about their initial thoughts. Before work can continue much further, an important next step for us is to understand more about the Chinese customs surrounding land ownership, development, and government control and decision making procedures, among other things, which differ greatly from Australian practices. This will be one of the first things on the agenda for tomorrow, when the project continues.


– Sonja

Teamwork, Intensity and a Quarry

“On the bald street breaks the blank day” 


{“On the bald street breaks the blank day” “


“On the bald street breaks the blank day.”

In Memoriam A.H.H, Alfred Lord Tennyson

It was over the lunch of fragrant, steamed fish that our Cino-Aussie group first communicated in genuine earnest. Food is the ultimate international language; a unifier. With ginger and chilli burning warm in our bellies, we boarded the bus for our site visit to the former quarry. The comfort of our heart-warming meal, dissipated quickly, as we travelled deeper and deeper into the industrial wasteland outside Dalian. Finally arriving, at one of the bleakest places I have ever visited; barren, scarred, apocalyptic. 

From lush, affluent Sydney, the devastation was all-encompassing. The intensity of the inequity between our two cultures and their inexorable connection was overwhelming and suffocating, like the poisoned air that filled the vacuous chasm that we stood in. A sea of plastic, sorted into bags of colour, played out like an artist’s palette of environmental devastation. Crushed and smashed, ready for recycling, the plastics read like a horror story of industrial carnage. Much like communist relics that litter the landscape of Eastern Europe, devoured by vines and crumbling with age, these forlorn broken toys and old air-conditioners seemed to signify the end of a great era and the sad remnants of what remains. 

The raw intensity of this profound moment has exacerbated the clarity of the task at hand for both teams, in fact it is irrelevant where you come from or what you have previously learned about the world, this blight can no longer be ignored. It represents so many of the great injustices in our world and we are compelled to make it better. In this quarry, we found a uniting call to action and this momentum broke down any social barriers still remaining between us as students and provided a firm foundation for our teamwork and our inevitable friendship.