• Physical Context
    Xiqu_River Site_Edited
  • History

    In 2007, IMC Octave entered into an agreement with the Chengdu government to develop an international leisure destination to boost tourism in Western China; the development would promote preservation of the natural surroundings and highlight the rich cultural heritage of the area.  With the Chengdu government as the joint venture partner, IMC Octave’s proposed project would develop two connecting sites: Xiqu as a vibrant learning based community and Longchi as a natural preserve to promote sustainable practices.

    Located at the foothills of the Himalayas and with a vast network of waterways, the region is naturally rich in scenic beauty, and throughout history, the province of Sichuan has been providing an abundance of agricultural output to feed the rest of the nation.  Furthermore, the region’s biodiversity is internationally recognized as a destination for research—it is the world’s foremost location for the study of panda preservation and Longchi National Park’s habitat for flora has attracted botanists and scholars from around the world.

    In addition to its ecological significance, this Southwestern region is a major cultural hub, where many Chinese traditions have its roots, including Daoism, which was founded over 2000 years ago in Qingchengsan.  Sichuan is also a historical center for Traditional Chinese Medicine, and home to a globally-recognized culinary tradition and a distinctive school of traditional crafts.

    Occupying 240 acres about 40 miles outside of Chengdu, the 2000 year-old capital of Sichuan province and the largest metropolis in Western China, the selection of this site in Dujiangyan was partly to provide a channel for growth in the interior region of China.  Landlocked urban centers such as Chengdu are completing the transition from an agrarian to industrial society, and showing the beginnings of a service sector.  With its abundance of natural resources, and its distinct cultural heritage, the Learning Community in Dujiangyan would be an attempt to test a new model of rural-urban integration.

    On May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale and subsequent aftershocks devastated the region, killing almost 70,000 people and uprooting millions.  The Sichuan Earthquake put all developments on pause as the region and the nation went into a phase of mourning and recovery, after which the government and developers reevaluated previously proposed projects.  Octave saw the need, now more than ever, to continue with its vision of transforming the traditional definition of real estate development.

  • History

    History of China

    University of Maryland

    The History Of China, as documented in ancient writings, dates back some 3,300 years. Modern archaeological studies provide evidence of still more ancient origins in a culture that flourished between 2500 and 2000 B.C. in what is now central China and the lower Huang He ( orYellow River) Valley of north China. 

    View the eBook


    US-China Relations

    USC US-China Today

    US-China Today is a student-driven publication of the USC U.S.-China Institute. Like the Institute, the magazine focuses on the multidimensional and evolving U.S.-China relationship and on significant trends in contemporary China. The magazine offers coverage of and commentary on a wide range of political, economic, social, and cultural issues.

    Read the Publication


    Government Resources

    China Government

  • History

    History of Chengdu

    Chengdu Government

    Through the history, Chengdu was a city densely covered by rivers and dotted with bridges, while trees grew in profusion and flowers bloomed all year around. No wonder that a traveler from France in the 19th century praised Chengdu as Oriental Paris. Over 2,000 years, Chengdu has remained a city of military importance in Southwest China on politics, economy and military affairs.

    Learn More


    Sichuan Earthquake

    New York Times

    Interactive map showing the extent of the most damaged areas from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Western China.

    View Map


    Dujiangyan’s Irrigation History


    Construction of the Dujiangyan irrigation system began in the 3rd century B.C. This system still controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu plains. Mount Qingcheng was the birthplace of Taoism, which is celebrated in a series of ancient temples.

    Read Report


    Biodiversity in Southwest China

    Conservation International

    With dramatic variations in climate and topography, the Mountains of Southwest China support a wide array of habitats including the most endemic-rich temperate flora in the world.

    Read Report


    Government Resources

    Chengdu Government 

  • Social Context

    Preparing for China’s Urban Billion

    McKinsey Global Institute

    The scale and pace of China’s urbanization continues at an unprecedented rate. If current trends hold, China’s urban population will hit the one billion mark by 2030. In 20 years, China’s cities will have added 350 million people more than the entire population of the United States today. By 2025, China will have 221 cities with one million–plus inhabitants—compared with 35 cities of this size in Europe today—and 23 cities with more than five million. For companies in China and around the world, the scale of China’s urbanization promises substantial new markets and investment opportunities.

    Read the Report


    Urban Planning and Social Engineering

    Oxford University Press

    This article briefly introduces the history and major policies of a massive community construction project launched by the People’s Republic of China in the mid-1980s. Based on a literature review and field observations, the authors highlight four characteristics of this project: muddling through chaos, top-down control, regulated participation, and community as functional establishment.

     Read the Article

  • Social Context
    Cultural Development

    Building Relationships

    East-West Cultural Development Center

    The East West Cultural Development Centre is a non-profit organisation set up to promote sustainability and harmony in a rapidly integrating world.

    Read about the Center

  • Physical Context
    Chinese Courtyard Housing


    American Institute of Architects

    Like all pre-modern vernacular housing types, Chinese houses evolved as inherently efficient and sustainable responses to the natural world around each building site. This simple concept is the root of all contemporary notions of sustainability.

    Read the Description

  • Client/Collaborator

    IMC Octave

    IMC Octave was founded as a platform to explore the serious challenges we face as a society in the 21st century: the new realities of urban and rural life, the endless consumption of elective commodities, and the spiritual and cultural void that has resulted from those changes. Our mission is to enrich people’s lives, through the built environment, with meaningful experiences that provide the tools for individuals to cope with the consequences of our new modernity, to elevate their overall quality of life.

    With roots in Asia, Fred Tsao, Chairman of IMC Pan Asia Alliance Group, along with his brother, Calvin Tsao, Principal of Tsao & McKown Architects, saw an opportunity to challenge the norm in China as the country confronts a critical juncture in its course of development. China’s long-term stability is not just an issue for the nation; it is a global challenge. The brothers’ partnership that led to the founding of Octave and that spans across continents brings together design, design-thinking, politics, culture, and economics, creating a synergy that guides Octave’s approach to the research and development of new models for 21st century living.

    Through a tripartite venture with non-profits, businesses and government bodies, we are exploring initiatives in sustainability, health and wellness, learning, arts, agriculture, and new models of consumerism. These initiatives serve as the foundation of the holistic communities we seek to create.

    The collaboration between Tsao & McKown and Octave, in a hybrid designer-developer relationship, allows us to integrate our initiatives into the built environment. This partnership draws on the expertise of teams with a variety of perspectives; teams that can exchange ideas and share resources on how to embed our ideas of community and lifestyle into the fabric of society.

  • T&M Team

    Calvin Tsao

    Zack McKown


    Monica Blasko

    Rachel Brody

    Chun-Lin Chou

    Sarah Ellis

    Michael Fei

    Corey M. Hoelker

    Jonathan Rush Hoover

    Jason Ivaliotis

    Paul Lee

    Pablo De Miguel

    James Park

    Andrew Reyniak

    Joseph Ruster

    Max Thelander

    Sonia Tsao

  • Consultants

    Peter Rowe

    Harvard University Graduate School of Design

    Michael Buckley

    President, Halcyon Ltd


    Structural Engineer


    Technical Services

    Jeff Spiritos

    Chris Garvin


    Alexander Felson

    Coordinator,Yale School of Architecture/School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

    Director,Urban Ecology and Design Laboratory