Loeb Fellow, 2017 Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA, USA
Master of Architecture, 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture + Planning, Cambridge, MA, USA
Bachelor of Science in Product Design, 2001 California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, USA


James Shen is the Principal and Founding Partner of People’s Architecture Office and Co-founder of the Plugin House Company. He received his Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Product Design from California State University, Long Beach. Shen has been a Donghia Designer-in-Residence at Otis, Loeb Fellow at Harvard, a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies an Innovation Fellow at MIT’s China Future City Lab. He has taught at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. 

James Shen's Work

Learning Terraces
Fuqiang Elementary School
Shenzhen 2021

James Shen's Work

Plugin Houses for people suffering from homelessness
The Other Ones Foundation
Austin 2022

James Shen's Work

Social Network Factory
Design Society Museum
Shenzhen 2020

James Shen's Work

Amoeba Public Restroom
Manshan Park 
Beijing 2022

James Shen's Work

Long Beach Covid-19 Memorial
Lincoln Park
Long Beach Ongoing

James Shen's Work

Shangwei Plugin Houses
Shangwei Urban Village
Shenzhen 2018

James Shen's Picture


  • 2022 Loop Design Awards Category Winner: Jingdezhen House-in-House Plugins
  • 2019 Domus Magazine World’s 100+ Best Architecture Firms
  • 2019 Aga Khan Award Finalist
  • 2018 Fast Company World’s Ten Most Innovative Architecture Companies
  • 2018 Architecture Review Emerging Architecture Practice
  • 2018 Otis College Donghia Designer-in-Residence
  • 2017 Design Museum, Beazley Designs of the Year, UK
  • 2017 AZ Award, Canada, Temporary & Demonstration Architecture
  • 2016 Archmarathon Award, Italy, Retrofitting and Refurbishment
  • 2016 Red Dot Award, Germany, Public Space
  • 2015 World Architecture Festival Award, UK, Old and New
  • 2015 Architizer A+ Award, USA, Low-Cost Housing

Professional Accomplishments/Exhibitions:  

  • 2023 Mass Support, Flexibility, and Resident Agency in Housing, CUNY, New York
  • 2022 Multiplicity, Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2022 Oslo Architecture Triennale
  • 2019 Design Society, Shenzhen China: Learning at Play
  • 2018 The Community, Across Chinese Cities, Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy
  • 2017 Beazley Designs of the Year, London Design Museum, London, UK
  • 2017 Mass Interventions: Yantai, China: Retrospective Exhibition | Seven Years of People’s Architecture Office
  • 2016 Towards a Critical Pragmatism: Contemporary Architecture in China, Harvard University GSD, Cambridge, MA
  • 2016 Sharing & Regeneration, Foundazione EMG dot ART, Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy
  • 2016 China Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy
  • 2016 The Next Economy, Rotterdam International Architecture Biennale, Rotterdam, Netherlands


  • Shen, James. "The Practice of Interrogative Design." Interrogative Design. Ed. Ian Wojtowicz, MIT Press (forthcoming) 
  • Herbert, Chris, Chadwick Reed, James Shen. Comparison of the Costs of Manufactured and Site-Built Housing. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2023
  • Shen, James. Unsanctioned Architecture. Miguel Guitart (Ed.) Approaching Architecture Three Fields, One Discipline. Routledge, 2023, 209-225.
  • Topham, Sean and Courtenay Smith. “Plugin House.” Houses That Can Save The World. London, Thames & Hudson, 2022
  • Klanten, Robert, Elli Stuhler. “Bigger, Denser, and More Populous: Devising Housing Solutions Amid Rapidly Growing Cities.” Beauty and the East: New Chinese Architecture. Gestalten, 2021: 22-29
  • Sever, Andrea and Gestalten. “Shangwei Village Plugins.” Beyond the West: New Global Architecture. Gestalten, 2020
  • Ning, Ou. “People’s Architecture Office’s Riotous Acts.” Topophilia and Placemaking Kwan-Yen Project. Yantia Chuanyuan Culture and Media: 2018: 322-389.
  • Wong, Kristine. “Plugging into the Past.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Volume 15:1, Winter 2017: 8-9.
  • Mollard, Manon. “Economy Class: Mrs. Fan’s Plugin House in Beijing, China by People’s Architecture Office” The Architecture Review, November 2017.
  • Bragg, Jennifer. “Can People-powered Architecture Solve Beijing’s Problems?” OZY, September 28, 2016.
  • Shen, James. “Designing Education.” Time+Architecture, Issue 141, January 2015: 74.

Clients/Employment History: