‘One’ Episode 8: Liwei Wang investigates Chinatown’s urbanism through aesthetics

Laurie Gomez YC '22
Liwei Wang and creative partners presenting "Chinatown Stories"

In episode #8 of the Schwarzman Center web series, O​ne, dual degree student in the Yale School of Architecture and School of Management Liwei Wang ’20 talks with Alex McGrath YC’21 about his studio focused research project, Chinatown Stories. Through his multi-media work, Wang discusses the unique urbanization that occurs within the Chinese enclave in New York.

Wang worked with two other students, Ray Wu ’19 and Winston Yuen ’19, to investigate the unique qualities of urbanism in Chinatown, Manhattan. They studied “often ignored artifacts of architecture” like restaurant take-out menus, the busy signage that serves as a main staple, and pop-culture representation.

The team imagined Chinatown Stories as a multi-media exhibition of Chinatown’s past, present, and future. “It’s kind of like a tapestry of the aesthetics that Chinatown is really about,” Wang suggested.

Originally, the work was meant to be exhibited in Tsai CITY’s Asian American Art Showcase, but the pandemic cut the exhibition short. Wang hoped to ultimately exhibit Chinatown Stories in New York City, citing his desire to share the work with the community that inspired it and to have an impact outside of academia.

Through a rigorous look at the forces driving the unique urbanism of Chinatown I began to change a lot of my own standards…I can change how other people feel, too.
Liwei Wang, Yale School of Architecture and School of Management '20

In the interview with McGrath, Wang discussed monolithic representations of Chinatown in popular media. He explained differences in his experiences in Chinatowns in the U.S. and Canada, and the sense of community and belonging borne from those experiences, as well as the effect of his lived experiences on his personal values.

He said, “even I had a few prejudices about Chinatown… I had some standards to what I thought was attractive aesthetically. Through a rigorous look at the forces driving the unique urbanism of Chinatown I began to change a lot of my own standards…. I can change how other people feel, too.”

McGrath, the host of episode #8, is a junior in Branford College. At the Schwarzman Center, McGrath works on stakeholder engagement, helping to ensure effective communication with all the constituencies that the Schwarzman Center serves. He conducted the interview with Wang over Zoom.

One, a web series produced by the Schwarzman Center, highlights interdisciplinary approaches to the arts in relation to the Center’s values of collaboration, wellness and belonging. The inaugural season illuminates the creative and academic merits of student works impacted by social distance and explores perspectives on community-building among dispersed groups.  The series title, One, is a nod to the Schwarzman Center’s aspiration to advance a sense of “One Yale” and create an interconnected community that builds new traditions of student engagement around the campus and into the world.

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