Architect with Chinese roots elevates residential design in Aspen, Colorado

Xiangdong “Don” Shi has more than four decades of experience in the structural engineering, architecture and landscape architecture fields. Having lived in Aspen, Colorado for more than two of those decades, his specialties are high-end residential and landscape designs.

Architect Xiangdong Shi is pictured with his wife, Li Zhu

“Aspen, a world-famous Rocky Mountain ski resort, is unique,” he said. “Our clients come from all over the world, with different lifestyles and cultural backgrounds.

“As an American architect with a Chinese heritage, I have seen how architecture can be a unifying expression of the relationships between life experiences and communities near and far. This vision has guided me for over 40 years of practice.”

Shi grew up in Fengcheng, a city in China’s Liaoning Province. He is the current owner of Alpine Development Consulting and formerly worked as an architect for several firms in the Roaring Fork Valley.

One of Shi’s recent career highlights was when he helped develop several projects, including high-end residences, golf courses, and ski slopes as well as commercial properties that featured restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and a clubhouse in China.

“Those projects were not the largest ones I’ve completed,” he said, “but, they were special to my heart.”

In China, only the brightest can pursue a higher education

Xiangdong “Don” Shi, on the right, golfs with his wife Li Zhi and son Xinwu “Sonny” Shi at the Aspen Golf Course.

Shi, 66, didn’t always want to be an architect. The decision was actually
made for him when he was young. This was a normal situation for those
growing up in the midst and aftermath of the Cultural Revolution in 1960s

“It is quite an interesting story,” he said.

After middle school, governmental leadership gave him an opportunity to
study structural engineering as a trade.

Seven years later, higher education was restored in China after being
abolished during the Cultural Revolution for 11 years.

Shi passed the national college entrance exam known as the Gaokao that was taken by individuals who were in their late teens and early 30’s. Less than 5 percent of test takers passed the test.

Shi was then selected by the Harbin University’s admissions committee to study as an architecture student.

“Both as an adolescent and young adult, the decisions leading to my
profession were made for me,” Shi said. “I honestly believe the people who
made the decisions had good intentions. I would rather have studied literature and history if given the chance.”

In 1986, selected and sponsored by US-Sino Exchange Programs, he came to
the United States. In 1988, he graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in architecture. In 1991, he finished a master’s degree in landscape architecture from SUNY, ESF.

Years later, the architecture firm Design Workshop sought an architect in Aspen with eastern and western credentials.

“It was a position designed perfectly for me,” he said.

In the end, making his home in the Colorado Rockies was an easy decision. Today, he is an avid fisherman, skier, and golfer.

“What I enjoy most about my job is being able to draw upon my experiences,” Shi said. “It inspires me to be creative and practical during the design and construction process.”

Shi can be reached at (970) 319-5864 or

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