By Alli Mertins
Assistant Archivist, Northwest Architectural Archives
Weiming Lu is an internationally recognized urban planner known for his design work in America and global consulting practices. With his intercultural background, he has dedicated his life to promoting a better understanding and relationship between the United States and China, and to advancing peace and prosperity around the world.
Weiming Lu was born in Shanghai, China, however, political unrest caused his family to flee to Taiwan in 1949. After earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cheng-Kung University and fulfilling his military obligation, Lu emigrated to America and entered the University of Minnesota to continue his engineering studies. He later went on scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue his master’s degree in regional planning (1957).
His career took him to planning and design leadership positions in a number of American cities, all in the effort to advance livable, creative, and sustainable cities.
Lu joined the city planning department of Minneapolis in 1959, where he eventually rose to the post of Chief of Environmental Design. During his tenure, Minneapolis saw the construction of the I-35W highway, Nicollet Mall, and the skyway system. Lu was involved in all of these projects, and co-authored the Metro ‘85 plan (1971), which was the blueprint for Minneapolis urban planning in the 1970s.
In 1971, Lu left Minnesota for Dallas, Texas where, as Director of Urban Design, he helped establish an active historic preservation commission, assisted in the creation of a downtown arts district, and fought successfully for a landmark designation for the Texas School Book Depository building.
In 1979, Lu returned to the Twin Cities as Deputy Director for Urban Design for the Lowertown Redevelopment Corporation (LRC) in St. Paul. Two years later he became its executive director and led an effort to renovate the empty warehouses and parking lots of the historic Lowertown. The goals of the LRC were sixfold: to create a more livable urban environment for all ages and income levels; create jobs by attracting new businesses; renovate warehouses for housing; encourage the arts; create more green space; and reconnect the neighborhood with the Mississippi River. This plan encouraged a symbiotic relationship between the historic preservation of old buildings and the use of high technology, efficient heating and cooling systems, and light rail transit.
Lu retired as president of the LRC, which became a national model of successful central city revitalization through public-private partnerships. He has since acted as St. Paul’s host to many visiting delegations of mayors, city planners, and architects from around the world.
Lu has served as a consultant and advisor for many other cities in the United States and globally on numerous projects, including: the reconstruction of South Central Los Angeles following the 1992 riots; the development of the Chattanooga riverfront in Tennessee; revitalization of downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba; United Nations Planning Team in Taiwan; and international design competition jury member for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Lu continues to lecture extensively around the world and writes widely on many topics related to urban planning. A number of his publications have been translated and published in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. He has contributed to several books on urban regeneration, historic preservation, and sustainable development, in addition to writing his own book The Tao of Urban Rejuvenation: Building a Livable, Creative Urban Village , published in English and Chinese in 2013.
He enjoys mentoring new generations of students and leaders in the U.S. and China. Beside lecturing on his planning and development experiences, he often shares with them his own life experiences – how he grew up during the war, experienced poverty and hunger, and overcame challenges and difficulties; how he came to America, to study, work, and adapt to a new culture; and how he went back to China, to serve whenever the opportunity arose.
Having grown up in China, Lu is keenly interested in helping plan and build livable cities for his fellow Chinese. He searches for a balance between change and continuity, a symbiosis between east and west. Lu is also an accomplished Chinese calligrapher, searching his own spirit through the brushstrokes of this art form that is thousands of years old. He has exhibited in art centers and galleries in the United States, Japan, and China, where his works are in the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Contemporary Calligraphy Center of the China National Academy of Arts.
Currently, he is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAICP), an Honorable Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and a member of the International China Planning Network. He is an advisor to the Planning Institutes of Beijing and Shanghai, the Modern Calligraphy Center of the China National Academy of Arts, U.S./China Friendship Association (Minnesota Chapter), Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, and the Metropolitan Design Center of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design.
The Minnesota Historical Society has collected his personal papers as a part of the society archive, while the Northwest Architectural Archives has collected his urban planning and design papers. These papers have been fully processed, and are available for use.
Let’s give a long overdue “Welcome!” to Weiming Lu!
- Weiming Lu papers, N279, Northwest Architectural Archives
- Weiming Lu Papers. Minnesota Historical Society.
- Tao of Urban Rejuvenation from Preservation Alliance of Minnesota
- Lecture: The Tao of Urban Rejuvenation from the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota (2014)
- Lecture: Re-envisioning Chinese Cities with Eastern Genius Loci from the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota (2012)