Professor Tunney F. LEE (1931 – 2020)
HKIA Honorary Fellow Professor Tunney F. LEE (李燦輝教授), the beloved mentor and friend of many Hong Kong architects, recently passed away in Boston, U.S. We extend our deepest condolences to his family.
Professor Lee was the Emeritus Professor, and Founding Chairman of the Department of Architecture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, which was established in 1991. Previously, he was the Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He served as Chief of Planning and Design at the Boston Redevelopment Authority and was also Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Planning and Operations.
With a worldly vision, Professor Lee made great contributions to advancing of knowledge in shaping of human habitation. To him, architecture, urban design and city planning are one continuum of our lively world to be experienced and enjoyed by people. His research and teaching at MIT focused on the process of community-based design. In recent years, he focused his research on the urban development of the Pearl River Delta in China, and an Atlas of Urban Residential Densities. He was a distinguished educator for most of his life, having taught many generations of students who spread around the world making contributions of their own to make the world a better place to be.
In appreciation of his contribution towards nurturing young generations of architects, and extending the knowledge boundaries in urban design and development, HKIA bestowed Honorary Fellowship on Professor Lee in 2006.
Professor Lee was a dignified, graceful scholar with an extremely warm and compassionate nature. He was highly respected by all his friends, colleagues, fellow professionals and intimately loved by his students. Professor Lee will be missed and fondly remembered.
* These tributes first appeared in the CUHK Alumni online memorial event on 20 September 2020.
** Photographs courtesy of tribute authors or School of Architecture, CUHK unless otherwise specified.
Photo courtesy Information Services Office, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
photo courtesy Lam Wo Hei
Photo courtesy Information Services Office,
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
To many of Tunney’s students, his warm, welcoming smile was most memorable. Teaching came so naturally to him, that people could only realize afterwards how fruitful it had been engaging with Tunney on the corridor in Chung Chi College, while having dinner in Wo Che cooked-food stall, or attending a workshop in Shenzhen. He taught by example, passionately, patiently, but effectively focusing on people’s needs, the natural environment and solution to realistic problems rather than creation of grandiose schemes or superficially beautiful objects. To him people is the end, while architecture and planning are just the means to serve humanity.
In 1991, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) launched Hong Kong’s second professional architecture programme and Tunney was appointed the founding Chair and Department Head. A new breed of architects was nurtured by a new curriculum focusing on four principles, ‘context’, ‘form’, ‘technology’ and ‘human needs’. ‘Human needs’ was the central overriding principle against which all the other three were to be measured and tested in the design process. The new school brought a refreshing breeze of design liberalism to the Faculty of Social Science, in which Tunney felt particularly fitting for architectural education to be conducted. The new Department quickly came very much to life. His presence was felt everywhere in the school where his belief and convictions were practiced, disseminating architecture and planning knowledge to students in a way very humane and uniquely Tunney’s.
It has been almost three decades since architecture was taught at CUHK. Generations of graduates have made their presence in the profession successfully, bringing with them a culture which enrich every aspect of architecture. Looking back, the arrival of CU educated architects has induced new intellectual blood and nourishment to architectural practices in Hong Kong and much beyond, contributing to a healthy evolution in the profession. To date many CU graduates are still proudly carrying with them the hallmarks of Tunney’s teaching, taking an inclusive approach to design, caring for social value while prioritizing on the needs of humanity.
Alex C.W. Lui
I am very sad to learn from School of Architecture CUHK that Tunney Lee has passed away on 2 July 2020.
It was in the late 1980s that we recommended Tunney to head the second school of architecture that was being created for Hong Kong within the Chinese University. I knew Tunney through my association with MIT and knew of his dedication to education through his role as the head of the Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. I was happy that he accepted and now to see the successful result of his leadership during his tenure at the Chinese University.
I am very proud to see the quality of the graduates that emerged from the new school of architecture.
I have known him as a very sociable person, very approachable with no formalities. Deeply committed to the social issues of architecture, he was not a ego builder, and I am glad that he instilled these ideals to his students.
James H. Kinoshita*
I first met Professor Tunney Lee in 1990 during the process of the establishment of a new School of Architecture in The Chinese University of Hong Kong. If I remember correctly, I was a member of the Architecture Academic Advisory Committee for the University, and we had an interview with Professor Lee before he took up his post as the founding professor of the School.
As a practicing architect and a graduate of the School of Architecture of the HK University then, I was very excited to witness the foundation of a new school of architecture. in HK, and in what new areas of architectural education the new school would offer under the potential leadership of Professor Lee. I was deeply impressed with Tunney’s rich background in urban planning and design and his deeply felt vision of what the new school could contribute to the education of a new generation of architects in HK.
I was also a member of the first Accreditation Panel of HK Institute of Architects in the process of accrediting the School as a recognised school for the Institute, and later on as an employer for many of its graduates. Their accomplishments are the heritage of Professor Lee.
Though I had few opportunities later on to interact with Tunney, my recollection was that he was not only a very learned and dedicated educator, he was a very open and genial person, someone who now all of us miss dearly.
Edward S. T. Ho*
It was my first experience to witness the birth of a new school of Architecture in HK. I cannot believe it was 30 years ago. Tunney and I first met a year before the intake of students to the department in 1991. He was always a gentleman, a humanistic scholar who inspired so many people. I was nominated by HKIA to join the Architecture Academic Advisory Committee to monitor and advise on curriculum set up, teaching capacity and other resources, etc. It was since then we had to meet Tunney once every 2 months to review the progress. There was a clear common goal between the school and our professional institute. Everyone was working hand in hand to make sure the setup would match not only to HK but also international standard, paving way for accreditation. HKIA as a professional institute played an important role to facilitate CUHK’s Architectural Program’s drive for excellence.
For me, it was a moment to treasure working shoulder to shoulder with Tunney. With his determination, the new department was established under the Faculty of Social Science. It was uncharted water for all of us. Tunney coming from US had to work in a system he was unfamiliar with. It was also the first time for HKIA to advise on a new Architectural school setup. As for the Faculty of Social Science, even understanding the need of an Architectural Department was foreign to them. They never had to deal with technical requirements such as space for model making, specification and space for pin-up panels, etc. Even long operation hours for design studios was an unfamiliar requirement for their management. He always resolved problems humanistically. I admire tremendously the quality in Tunney to be able to pull people together, gaining their trust and support at all levels.
By 1997, I was the chairman of HKIA accreditation visit working with representatives from RIBA, CAA, NCARB. It was a unanimous decision to recognise the performance of the school. However, the success of its accreditation should never be taken for granted. It was unprecedented to have a new school to achieve that level of international accreditation within 6 years of short history. Together with the teaching staff and the students, it was a collective effort and achievement. Tunney of course had played a major role to motivate every single person to do their best for the same goal.
Starting a new school was like drawing on a blank canvas, opening up imagination. I was very impressed and excited by the energy generated by Tunney. The staff and the students were like pioneers, spontaneous and passionate in working things out. The spirit was very high. I was really impressed with their enthusiasm. As a practitioner, it was refreshing to experience that. I felt a surge of energy in me to be part of the school, being there for their design reviews and year-end assessment. It was also a mutually enlightening experience for me to go on field trips with the students. Up till now, I am still keen to facilitate professional development of architectural students, that is why I get involved with the Wharf Scholarship to offer overseas work experience opportunities to talented graduates. Offering them global exposures and widened perspective is like planting seeds for their long term professional growth.
Tunney, with his dedication to education, conviction to motivate teaching staff and students and his down to earth leadership, was the best person to set up the second professional architecture school in Hong Kong, which I believe, was the greatest achievement of his career. Tunney will be remembered by all of us.
A partial transcript of an interview with Anthony Ng*
I see Professor Tunney Lee as a good friend, a great teacher, and a world-class scholar in the field of architecture and urban planning. Let me share a few anecdotes of Tunney with you.
Whenever I encountered a professional problem, the first person I consulted would be Tunney. If I needed the help of an expert in the field of urban design, campus planning, or specialised medical facilities, Tunney would without fail recommend the best firms available, particularly ones from the U.S.
In 1999, my daughter was about to entre university and considered colleges near Boston. Tunney and his wife, Irene, quickly sent us a list of schools to visit. As part of the fact-finding tour we were in Boston. To this day, my daughter still remembers the excellent lobster dinner at ‘Legal Seafood Restaurant’ with the good professor.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to the Umbria district in Italy with Tunney, Alex Lui, and Antonio DiMambro. In every hill town we visited, Tunney would get up early and walk around the area to study how town folks centuries ago designed the street patterns, public open spaces, and buildings to overcome the hilly terrain. That was before the advent of escalators and elevators.
On the 25th anniversary of the Chinese University’s School of Architecture, Tunney was in Hong Kong with a minor foot injury. In spite of the pain, he insisted in visiting South China University of Technology (華南理工學院) with Alex Lui to attend workshops with the students.
Tunney sent me an e-mail in May 2019 at the chapel of the Holy Shroud, Turin, Italy. It was closed when we last visited. The restoration was completed and he suggested another trip to Italy to see this masterpiece by Guarini. I now regret not taking up his suggestion.
Although Tunney was a third generation American, he was born in Taishan, China. He told me that both his father and grandfather went back to Taishan in their twenties to find a wife. Tunney was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was a young boy. His roots were in China.
Lam Wo Hei
I am deeply saddened at the loss of a good friend, mentor and comrade, when Alex Lui broke the news to me that Professor Tunney Lee passed away. I truly missed him and the times when we enthusiastically discussed about urban densities and livability in high density compact cities. We shared similar passion and aspirations about cities and their people.
I always enjoyed chatting with Tunney. He was a member of the Building Committee of the Hong Kong Housing Authority in the 1990s. Tunney was a staunch supporter of our public housing policies, strategies, quality and quantity, as well as the people aspects of our public housing in Hong Kong. When he left Hong Kong and moved back to Boston, I missed him with his Architect-Planner’s perspective, inspiring, pragmatic and full of wisdom. Thereafter, whenever Tunney came to Hong Kong in the new millennium, he and Alex Lui would visit me and my colleagues to exchange ideas, whilst he was conducting a global research on urban densities. I gladly showed him our latest planning and design breakthroughs, such as micro-climate studies, community engagement activities etc. He advocated that Hong Kong had plenty of good experience to share with the world.
Tunney said, “You must come to Boston and talk to my MIT students.” I said I would do so upon retirement, and I did. On 29 September 2019, I just managed to spend a Saturday morning with Tunney and his friends in Boston. We had a delicious dim sum breakfast at his favourite “Great Taste” in Chinatown, and a hearty chat about planning and architecture, housing and Hong Kong. Next, we went for a nice walking tour in Boston on a bright sunny day. He was very energetic and enthusiastic.
Through this walking tour, I learnt a lot more about Tunney. I could vividly see his footprints in downtown Boston. He worked miracles, as a pioneer and leader! He had always been passionate about city planning, urban design, affordable housing, community building and place making in Boston, speaking to and influencing public officials and the community at large, bringing his ideas to fruition to make things work.
Much more than being a renowned scholar in MIT, Tunney was a mastermind and entrepreneur who had been instrumental in the transformation of Boston. He was the Founder of Asian Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organization with a lot of properties and community activities in Chinatown. I saw his footprints in green spaces and Big Dig of Boston too. The last stop of our tour was a red brick building, which was Tunney’s home when he grew up as a kid.
I said to Tunney, “With limited time but fond memories of you and Boston, it gives me the desire to come back and visit you again!” He had a permanent office in MIT as a lifetime professor, and he had excellent connections with his students and former students. That was a very enjoyable morning, with fond memories of Tunney and his friends in Boston. I did not realize that it was the first and the last time for us to meet in Boston. His research on urban densities was still on-going, something that we had not yet finished. Sadly we miss Tunney, but I am sure that Tunney will be in spirit with us, always.
It is now almost 27 years on the dot since my first association with the School. Easter 1993 certainly proved to be a turning point in both my career and my own personal life when I was invited to return to meet Tunney and his young faculty in the newly founded school.
I was first drawn by Tunney’s affability and informality at our first meeting, where I found myself embarrassingly overdressed on that occasion and finding my way on Chung Chi campus in my suit under that sweltering heat and punishing humidity in April was quite a challenge. I was so glad that I didn’t have to be in the same attire until attending our students’ first graduation ceremony the following summer.
I was awed by Tunney’s foresight in placing the school under the Faculty of Social Science from our very first exchange. His ethos, so eloquently put across at that meeting, centred around humanity that was so successfully crafted into the signatory DNA of the school and subsequently underlined the curriculum he devised. I found instant echoes from Tunney’s outlook on architecture education with the values I was brought up with by the founding fathers of the practice that I began my career with in the UK.
I therefore didn’t have to think long and hard about the prospect of homecoming in balmy August during my return journey to chilly Liverpool. The rest was of course history and that meeting in Elisabeth Luce Moore Library building certainly had turned a new epic leaf in my life and I am forever grateful for Tunney in bringing me back to my birthplace.
It felt surreal when I, after spending seventeen long years away, was so warmly received by Tunney and his young faculty who themselves must be still finding foot in their new daily life in this city at the time. Those welcoming dinners at Wo Che dai pai dong, barbecue parties at the University Boat Club (all so expertly hosted by the effervescing and forever hospitable Irene) served more than warmest possible introduction to this ‘new family’ of mine that I forever cherish.
Tunney’s imprint on the School DNA stretches beyond his profound visionary on architectural education and manifested by the rapport he has cultivated amongst the faculty, staff, students and the alumni community, still evidently alive and kicking two decades after his tenure. Tunney’s most remarkable legacy is the lasting bond within the CUHK community, only exemplified by the passion and enthusiasm of the alumni who have worked tirelessly in organising this very memorial service and the terrific response from past faculty members and friends who are now scattered all around the globe. The flooding tributes are not just great testaments of the respect that Tunney commands but more importantly are reflections of his charismatic persona, his mammoth popularity and the compassion he nurtured in people who has worked with him and within the sphere of Tunney’s towering influences over the years. In witnessing what is on display ……….. ‘Humanity in action’, Tunney, you must be smiling in heaven!
Anyone who has had the privilege and pleasure of working with Professor Tunney Lee would agree he was someone who was consistently ahead of his time. Professor Lee was appointed as the Professor of Architecture and the Founding Head of Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1990, tasked to start a new architectural programme. That was a time where there was a perceived need for more architecture graduates in Hong Kong and the University was at the juncture of developing into a comprehensive university. These two factors prompted the University to submit a proposal to the University Grants Committee to have a second school of architecture established in Hong Kong.
The suggestion to have the new department hosted in the University’s Faculty of Social Science resonated well with Tunney who himself was very involved with community building, and employing planning and architectural tools to forge social cohesion and identity. This spirit of growing an engaging team and a close-knit community was eventually the focus of the new architectural programme to which Tunney brought in a people-centric and socially conscious perspective on design education.
Tunney had a great vision for education that is context-specific. The planning for the new programme and design of the curriculum were thoughtful means to address essential values in architecture and devise ways for students to adopt these values. He believed the experience had to tailor to the Hong Kong context and possess exceptional clarity in learning objectives and impact. He regarded design as problem-solving and promoted research as the pathway to seek design solutions. Tunney introduced ‘making’ as a necessary process in architecture design studio. First year students were asked to design and build caves and treehouses as prototypical architectural forms. Tunney was among the first to transform the teaching and learning experience that had inspired generations of teachers and students.
As a colleague, Tunney was extremely personable and could draw people together within the department and beyond. As the Head, he provided assertive leadership that enabled the team to work in high spirit and energy, with an open mind to different ideas. Tunney also contributed to Hong Kong architecture with his interest in community participation, housing policy and design. These interests had sparked further research by inspired colleagues and professionals. In his brief but by no means insignificant eight years spent in Hong Kong, Professor Tunney Lee had created an architectural learning approach that focused on evidence-based problem-solving. In practice, he led the way in addressing community dimensions in planning and architecture, research in bamboo theatre, and other usage of bamboo as a construction material, just to name a few.
Professor Tunney Lee will be fondly remembered as a forerunner in the field of architecture, and above all, a visionary educator and leader.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, is widely known as a university town, anchored at opposite ends of the same street by Harvard to the west and MIT on the east. As a Harvard student in the 1970s, I spent considerable time at the opposite end of town at MIT while dating a girl whom I especially admired. (Luckily for me, we have been married for the past forty years.) While waiting around for her at the MIT campus in those early days, I often noticed Prof. Tunney Lee, with his lean and lanky frame, walking by in animated conversations with his students or faculty colleagues. However, I never worked up the courage to try and meet him back then.
Thus, despite the fact that I studied and worked in Cambridge for 15 years, and my wife was at MIT for two degrees, we only met Tunney and his wife, Irene, for the first time in Hong Kong, in 1991, shortly after they had arrived to start up the new department of architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. As the founding chair and professor, Tunney kindly invited me for part-time teaching.
Early on, I once asked Tunney how and when he first got started teaching architecture and urban design. He told me, with a hearty laugh, that his first class was the best one he ever taught in his career. Everything he knew up to that point in time was jam-packed into that first lecture. He presented brilliant design solutions to several complex problems. But, by the time the next week rolled around for his second class, he said, “Now what? I already taught them everything I knew.” So, instead of trying to provide more answers, he started to ask questions—in the Socratic tradition—in order to challenge his students’ underlying assumptions, to test their ideas, develop critical thinking, generate dialogues and deeper understanding.
Although I never took a course from Tunney, he still taught me some of the most significant lessons in my architectural career. Eventually, I had the privilege to follow in his footsteps to become the director of the CUHK School of Architecture.
Whatever insights I shared with my own students during my tenure were often inspired by something Tunney had first discussed with me in those early years. For example, how the greater density of cities in Asia actually originates from its agriculture. Why agriculture? Since rice-growing societies can feed a much larger population occupying the same land area than wheat-growing civilizations—in fact, about 3-6 times more people. Or, how more density is actually better than less density in making more liveable and sustainable cities, and why Hong Kong is the leading case study in the world for supporting this thesis.
More than anyone else that I have ever known, Tunney was able to make you challenge your conventional thinking by posing such thought-provoking questions and considering new possibilities. Dr. Jeff Cody, a heritage conservationist at the Getty Institute who taught architectural history at CUHK in those early years, once observed, “Tunney always sees the glass half-full instead of half-empty. And, he says you can fill that glass all the way if you really want to.”
Shortly after both of my parents passed away, over a decade ago, my wife quietly asked me one evening, “Who is there left for us to go to for wisdom?” While we have many friends and family members to talk to for casual advice or opinions, who could now be our “go-to guru” for deep-rooted wisdom? Could I think of, say, three people? Immediately, I responded by naming Tunney and our church pastor. Then, silence … I could not think of three. “That’s sad,” she said. “No problem,”
I replied, “I am going to count double for Tunney.”
Let me end with a brief architectural history lesson about Sir Christopher Wren, whose tomb lies in the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral that was rebuilt to his design after the London Fire of 1666. When you go to St Paul’s, you will find these words inscribed in the marble floor below the central dome. In Latin, it reads: Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice. Which translates as: ‘To see his Monument, look around you’.
To see Tunney Lee’s monument, I need only to look around at the alumni of this School of Architecture, starting with the pioneering Master of Architecture graduates from the first Class of 1997, and the classes that have followed. While Tunney was not an architect and planner who designed many buildings and cities, he was one who designed and planned new teaching programmes and who built the foundations of future careers for students as well as young faculty members.
While the sun has now set on his lifetime, the sun rises again and burns brightly in his legacy in all of you, his former students and colleagues. Tunney is no longer with us, but he has left behind many gifts of his teachings and wisdom as well as his personal examples of curiosity and optimism, humility and gentleness, compassion and generosity. May all of these remain with you as you go forward in your lives and careers. For all of us, Tunney will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
Tunney is always my teacher, my mentor, and my friend.
To remember Tunney, I would like to recall the three incidents with him…
Bamboo Theatre – The bamboo theatre is a unique Hong Kong architectural treasure. It is created without architects by the collaboration of local communities, musicians and craftsmen. It exemplifies the complexity and richness of Hong Kong culture through its melding of the traditional with the modern.
The brief idea of Tunney cited in the book, Bamboo Theatre, has been encouraging me to research and teach architecture since we went on a field trip to the old market in Stanley with Mr. Wong Kam Sing, Prof. Chang Chao Kang and Prof. Tunney Lee in 1992. Tunney pointed to the bamboo theatre there and said, ‘This is Hong Kong architecture.’ I did not understand this not until his setting up of the CUHK Department of Architecture with his three circles – form, context and technology – to define architecture. This time, he taught me about humanity in architecture.
Zhongshan Charrette – In 1998, Tunney came to me and said, ‘Would you like to organize a design charratte in the Pearl River Delta?’ For me, it was extremely challenging, as it would take organizing skill, personal contact, knowledge capacity, etc. to cross borders, cross disciplines, and cross cultures. I did not know where I gathered the courage to answer him, ‘Why not?’ Then I took up the painful process, but Tunney was so skillful to coach me, to liaise with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, planning personnel from the USA, so on and so forth. He said, ‘It is important for the Chinese government to learn how to plan the city with democracy in mind.’ Again, I did not understand, not until I witnessed the process with the result that had really motivated the Chinese planning officials to think differently. This time, he taught me about democracy in planning.
Foshan Studio – In 2003, when I was in Harvard-Yenching Institute as a visiting scholar, Tunney invited me to co-teach with him in his practicum Foshan Studio. Again, I said, ‘Why not?’ This time as a colleague to coach students from different backgrounds was another challenge for me. As colleagues, we planned together, visited the site and discussed with officials and professionals between China and the States. In the studio, Tunney demonstrated to me that there was no generation gap between students and teachers. I then asked him, ‘How can you do it?’ He simply said, ‘I am young.’ This time, he taught me about empathy in life.
These three lessons on humanity, democracy and empathy that Tunney gave me over the years have been guiding me through difficulties, uncertainties, and adversities. His influences are beyond words, but simply in his smiles, his gestures and his wisdoms.
Wallace Chang Ping-hung
I first met Tunney in 1992 when he came by San Francisco to interview shortlisted candidates for CUHK’s teaching post. Walking up the street with my portfolio, I met Yung Ho Chang, who had just finished his interview. Shaking his head, he told me that he had had a big argument with Tunney, and had probably blown it. I walked to the hotel prepared for an argument as well, but instead, Tunney opened the door with a friendly big smile. We started by discussing issues of architecture form and its spatial experiences, and moved on to my study on the Chinese vernacular houses. The interview turned out to be a pleasant conversation about Lynch and MIT, Pei, Gropius, and TAC, where I was working then. Tunney told me about his family origin from Taishan and his Chinese ethnic identity, and shared his experiences working with communities in Boston’s China Town. To me, the interview was an encouragement for a young architect who was beginning his career. The next year, I stopped by Hong Kong after a trip to China, and met Tunney at CUHK. After I finished the presentation to Tunney’s CUHK colleagues, Tunney and I shared a pleasant conversation as he kindly walked me down to the MTR on the way to his afternoon jog.
I thought I was more likely to get the post from CUHK, but instead, I received an offer from HKU, where I started my teaching career in 1994. For the following few years, as a junior teacher at HKU, I only occasionally bumped into Tunney, but every time we met, he greeted me warmly. I remember Tunney excitedly telling me his observations during a site visit organised by ASD to their newly restored Yi Tai Study Hall
二帝書院 in Kam Tin Village. ‘Can you see their similar design strategy? The entrance sequence reminded me of entering Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple.’ Walking in the small beautiful atrium during that autumn afternoon, Tunney was certainly enjoying his findings on the shared relationship of design between modern and traditional architecture.
It was not until 2008 during my teaching at MIT, when Tunney had already returned to Boston for a while, that we became closer friends. We met often for coffee or lunch during the semester and he was always happy to come to my studio reviews. Sitting in his office at the loft space of MIT’s planning department, I enjoyed his sharp comments on the design of my projects, and his suggestions on the construction and material details. I remember asking Yung Ho again if he was getting along well with Tunney, and this time, he gave me a solid yes. Yung Ho had become much more socially and environmentally committed, and their debate twenty years ago must have ended. Before I returned to Hong Kong, Tunney invited me to his seaside cottage in Cape Cod for a weekend stay. I regret I was not able to make it, and I thought it would have been an enjoyable memory.
For the following years, Tunney often contacted me whenever he took students on field trips to China. Tunney must have hoped to help develop a progressive model for China’s community housing through the Vanke MIT sponsorship. When joining their meetings, I saw how his passion for integrating housing into a sustainable city design had remained unchanged, from his earlier career in Boston to his current research in China, 40 years later. One of the last emails I remember receiving from Tunney was asking for my paper on Taishan’s Market Town and Clanship during the Republic. I was moved by Tunney’s cultural identification with Taishan, a place that, as a third generation Chinese-American, he had always felt connected to.
As a teacher from HKU who had the fortune of receiving Tunney’s encouragement and mentorship, it is my pleasure to share with you my encounters with Tunney and my memories of his kindness and intelligence. This is a tribute to Tunney and his time, and his architectural vision that embraced humanity and the environment.