Kathleen Joan Gibson

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Kathleen Gibson is a design educator and Associate Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She practiced contract interior design for seven years prior to joining the academy. Evidence of her professional work has been featured in trade publications and has earned award recognition throughout the United States. At Cornell, Gibson teaches design studio courses centered on the virtual interior and researches a wide range of topics dealing with computer-aided design (CAD) and human behavior. Studies include the relationship between physical and virtual wayfinding, designing offline space using online navigational data, and interactive exhibitions. Kathleen co-manages the Intypes (Interior Archetypes) Research and Teaching Project at Cornell, is a site visitor for the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, and is the former e-editor of the Journal of Interior Design.

Research Title
Cross-culture and Vernacular Architecture: Kaiping Hybrid Tower Interiors of the Overseas Chinese in the Early Twentieth Century

Supervisors
Dr. Sandy Ng (Chief Supervisor)
Prof. David PY Lung (External Co-supervisor)
Prof. Lorraine Justice (External Co-supervisor)

About the Research
My dissertation research explores the relationship between vernacular and everyday ordinary Chinese architecture, modern building technology during the early twentieth century and the returning Overseas Chinese. Kaiping, a rural village in southern China’s Guangdong province, west of the Pearl River Delta, is the epicenter of this intersection; a region populated with just over 1800 watchtowers constructed during the first quarter of the twentieth century. In 2007, the towers were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and serve as the primary source of this investigation.

Unlike the tower exteriors, the domestic interior spaces of the diaolou have received minimal study. Through published photographs and Gibson’s field study at the Zili Village site in 2009, a comparative analysis between American vernacular and Chinese vernacular as expressed in the tower interiors examines the spatial relationships, furnishings and surface materials. Study of the towers suggests further inquiry about cultural authenticity, hybridity and acculturation of domestic spaces populated by Overseas Chinese.

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