UCL Changemakers


Setting up a student-led magazine about Asia and being Asian

Athena Li and Shiyan Zhu (Bartlett School of Architecture, 1st Year) describe a funded project to develop a student-led magazine profiling untold stories about Asia and 'being Asian'.


8 June 2021

B-Asia is a new student led endeavour to deliver undeclared, untold and unsuspected stories related to Asia. We want to achieve this objective through anecdotal storytelling, focusing on spatial experiences to create a sense of intimacy and familiarity that relates to everyday life.


We want to redefine the meaning of ‘Asia’ and being ‘Asian’ founded on the membership and ownership of certain ancestral roots. We extend the identity of being ‘Asian’ for people of all ethnicities and nationalities who are knowledgeable about or intrigued by Asian culture and heritage.

We want to rethink territorial ownership and hope to spark conversations around the idea of boundaries, theoretically and geographically; we want to challenge claims to possess cultural identities and see Asia as an abstract concept and being Asian as a shareable quality.

We want to portray the rhizomatic relationship between cultures and abstain from presenting the assemblage of Asian cultures in a hierarchal form or even more abhorrently a uniform body

Our first issue

Our first issue, ‘001. The Stew’, takes the form of a magazine which explores personal and authentic tales and experiences of Asian culture and heritage in the context of the built environment. The publication is available via ISSUU.


Those Kenyan nights are unforgettable: a vast collection of animal screeches emerging from the intense darkness. The air too – lacking the heaviness of the daytime heat – was certainly cooler and thinner. It was night when I left home for the last time. [1952, somewhere on the road between Nairobi and Mombasa] - Mombasa to Newcastle - J.S. Naru

Although the trumpets’ call at dusk has long faded, the expectation and anticipation of a sound, draws into existence a ‘phantom sound’, these shadows and flickers, although not physically present, begin to influence our spatial experience. As Torigoe described ‘Sounds of the past, sounds of the future, sounds in our memories and dreams’ must all be included. - Overlooked Sounds - Ben Sykes-Thompson

In a world facing existential planetary challenges, architecture needs to break free of its westerncentricity and embrace the infinite possibilities and opportunities of being a truly planetary discipline. This is one reason B-Asia is such an important endeavour. It is a microcosm of the change that is needed in architectural teaching and practice globally and we applaud the team who have worked so hard to make it a reality. - Guang Yu Ren and Edward Denison