Field urbanism, according to Chow, explores the continuous spatial relationships among buildings, streets, and open spaces — and how these shared conditions form the daily life and experiences of people in cities.

While computation and big data are emerging as tools to model urban complexity, Chow contends they are based on a “too simple, bifurcated view of cities – inside or outside, built or unbuilt, public or private” and that China’s extreme, object-oriented urbanism, where disconnected iconic structures dominate the skyline, offers an ideal base to test potential solutions to the densification, diversification, and sustainability challenges facing major cities around the world.

Chow says the effects of development and design strategies from the mid- to late-twentieth century are seen everywhere, but are magnified by the ambitious transformation of Chinese cities in recent years.

Using three rapidly developing urban areas — Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin — to illustrate her approach, Chow offers case studies, essays, and design explorations to demonstrate how field urbanism can identify the inherent urban and architectural systems that differentiate cities and apply these across sites and individual buildings to maintain a region’s distinct recognizable character.