I research, write, and teach about space. I think about materials, relationships, and how people connect in space.

My ongoing PhD is titled “A Colony of Shopkeepers”: Spaces of Consumption in New Towns public housing estates, Hong Kong, 1945-1989 and is part of the Cultures of Occupation in Twentieth-century Asia project (COTCA) led by Dr. Jeremy Taylor at University of Nottingham. I completed my MA History of Design thesis Assembling the dai pai dong: Living and Occupying the Street in Hong Kong, 1950s - present at the Royal College of Art/ V&A Museum in 2017.
I’m also interested in research methodologies, archives, and collaborative research, and often speak about my work in conferences and workshops.


I make books when I can, often with friends.

At the moment I am working as an editor on illustrator Flying Pig’s Barter Archive, as well as Archiving Archiving, a project on grassroots design archives in Asia that I started together with Zara Arshad.It’s a personal dream to make books in my everyday work.

Polyphonies (2017) a record of design history research, edited by Tanya Bennett, Vivien Chan, Sophie Chatellier, Andrea Foffa,
Natalia Goldsteine, Anna Stewart, graphic design and image credits to Dan Kozma and Ariana Tilche

Sooner, or later (2016) a collaborative zine between RCA/V&A History of Design and RCA Visual Communiation, edited by Vivien Chan, Sophie Chatellier and Andrea Foffa


I draw and print, mostly from life.

I studied Illustration & Animation at Kingston School of Art (2012-2015) and have previously tried out a career in fashion illustration. Now I make images for myself and independent publishing. I would like to do it more. I also dabble in other kinds of making, namely textiles and ceramics.

Vivien Chan

I am a design historian, researcher, writer, and imagemaker based in the UK.I research design history and material culture in Hong Kong with a broad interest in design in Asia, space, materiality, fashion, visual culture, queer culture, and the everyday. I teach design research at Nottingham Trent University and have guest lectured at the Royal College of Art and Kingston School of Art.

You can find me on the internet
or you can email me at vc[at]

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Some projects I work on with friends: Hong Kong Design History Network
Design Archives in Asia (Archiving Archiving)
Barter Archive
Tools for rebuilding
open design directory
iris Nottingham

Some articles I’ve written:
‘Markets made modular:constructing the modern ‘wet’ market in Hong Kong’s public housing estates’, Urban History, April 2022

Geofictions: Work in Progress
ed. Zara Arshad, February 2021 Interviewing Alvin Li and Junyuan Feng, curators of Liquid Ground

Design History Society, December 2018, Design and Displacement (1)

--, June 2018, Hearing Design History

--, November 2017, Making and Unmaking the Environment (3)

--, August 2017, Thoughts on Three Czech Modernist Villas

daikon* Winter 2018, Issue 4, Across the table: researching identity through food

Riposte (online) 2018, XING: An Interview with Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Design China, May 2016, More on China Design Centre

You can hear me speak on these podcasts: Reverberations by Zara Arshad

Women read
Recent talks I’ve given:‘Archival Interference: Counter-archives and Design History in Asia’, Archival Interactions Symposium, DAS Amsterdam, June 2022

Interior Speculations 2, Nottingham Trent University, June 2022

'Making the modern wet market in Hong Kong’s New Towns Public Housing Estates:order consumption and the materiality of ‘wetness’’, Oxford University Hong Kong Scholars Association, November 2021

‘Reconstructing Design Archives: Tracing Alternative Narratives of Design History',Memory Full, Design History Society Annual Conference, Academy of Art and Design Basel, September 2021 (panel co-convenor)

'Propaganda and the art of Labour in Hong Kong Protest', Media and Hong Kong Protests, Queen Mary University of London, December 2019 (panellist)

'Traversing Boundaries: Spatial and Material Narratives of Twentieth-century Hong Kong', Joint East Asian Studies Conference, University of Edinburgh, September 2019 (panel convenor)

International History of East Asia Seminar Oxford, Trinity Term, June 2019

All Roads Lead to Hong Kong, Hong Kong History Project/HKU Conference, HKU, June 2019

Interdisciplinary Lunchtime Seminar Series, Hong Kong Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, May 2019

Design and Displacement, Design History Society Annual Conference,
Cooper Hewitt/Parsons New York, September 2018

Scripts, print and letterform in global contexts, Centre for Print History and Culture, Birmingham City University, June 2018