Wei (Windy) Zhao
Emerging Legacy Award
Wei (Windy) Zhao is an assistant professor in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University. Zhao received her PhD in architecture in 2015 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a specialization in the social and cultural dimensions of the built environment and a focus on heritage studies. Zhao’s dissertation examines the ways in which cultural tradition has affected the physical, psychological, and social constructions of home in vernacular settlements in rural China. Zhao’s current research focuses on the built environment of marginalized social groups, particularly the ones living on the urban fringe, examining issues of social justice, equity and sustainability, cultural diversity, and heritage management. Having an interdisciplinary approach, Zhao focuses on the ways in which architecture and our approach to managing everyday cultural practices promote cultural identity, support public interest, engage local communities, maintain social sustainability and social well-being, and enhance the meaning of place.
Zhao has numerous published works in both English and Chinese, including a book in Chinese titled Historic Path of Yanxia (2013). Zhao’s second book, Home beyond the House: Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China, will be published by Routledge in November 2022. Based on extended work conducted between 2007 and 2019, including ethnographic fieldwork, building surveys, archival research, and more than 600 photographs taken by residents along with their life stories, this book uncovers the meanings of home from rural residents’ perspectives, who belong to a social group that is underrepresented in scholarship and underserved in modern China. In other words, this study empowers rural residents by giving them a voice.
Zhao has received numerous grants from various institutions and agencies in support of her research projects focused on the built environment of marginalized social groups. These grants include the Board of Regents Support Fund: Awards to Louisiana Artists and Scholars Program (2020–21), the Faculty Research Grant from Louisiana Tech University, the Community Engaged Scholarship Grant (with collaborators Stephen Goldsmith and Vellachi Ganesan), a Research and Creative Grant (with collaborator Thomas Carter) from the University of Utah, and over 10 grants and fellowships from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while she was pursuing her PhD between 2010 and 2015.
Zhao has been providing various forms of professional and academic services at the national and international levels. She is an expert member of the International (Scientific) Committee for Vernacular Architecture and an expert member of the International (Scientific) Committee for Cultural Tourism at the International Council on Monuments and Sites and serves on the Membership Committee of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Zhao was also a guest editor for Dialectic and the co-chair and coeditor for the Architectural Research Centers Consortium annual conference in 2017.
Zhao is a licensed architect in the United States and a LEED AP and runs MPlacez, a multidisciplinary design, research, and consulting practice that aims to make places that are both culturally rooted and socially sustainable. Zhao is also an artist and a photographer who has held numerous exhibitions featuring her travel sketches and narrative photographs at different venues.