Curator: Cole Roskam
The early years of “Opening and Reform” in post-Mao China were marked by transformative architectural and urban change. This exhibition offers a look at the role played by one building type – the international hotel – in spurring China’s economic development and limiting the risks of political destabilization.
The exhibition highlights several of the era’s best known international hotels, including the Shanghai Centre, completed by John Portman & Associates in Shanghai in 1990, with a range of materials, including publications, plans, photographs, and models. These artifacts testify to the optimism and uncertainty that surrounded these projects. They illuminate the debates taking place as to how these new technologies might inform China’s preexisting architectural practices. They also draw our attention to how rapidly China has continued to develop since the early reform-era (1978-1990).
In theory, these projects presented new liberalized environments through which foreign capital, ideas, and expertise could be channeled into China over time. In practice, they ushered in dramatic ideological and operational transformations that catalyzed urban development and reshaped China’s major urban centers. Collectively, they offer an opportunity to better understand a particularly meaningful moment in China’s recent history.