Designing Reform: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in the People’s Republic of China, 1973-1989

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: September 2013 – ongoing

Project Title: Of Art and Science: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in China, 1973-1989

Principal Investigator: Cole Roskam

Funding Body: Research Grants Council (RGC)

Abstract

This project examines modern Chinese architectural education, exchange, and discourse between 1973 and 1989. It seeks to understand three significant but unexplored dimensions of the era: the international expansion of Chinese architectural construction and exchange beginning in 1973; the profound changes in architectural education following the advent of economic reform beginning in 1977; and the impact of this internationalization on Chinese architectural discourse over the course of the 1980s. Ultimately, this work aims to re-position the era as a vital moment in the history of China’s architectural and cultural production by providing new and critical insight into economic, political, and cultural change through architectural form, practice, and discourse. More generally, my work asserts China be considered a more active and international influence in architectural practice and study at the time than has been previously considered.

Objectives

  • To move beyond a simple descriptive evaluation of the architecture’s collective aesthetic merits towards a more complete, complex, and conceptual intellectual history of China’s architectural development between 1973 and 1989.
  • To understand Chinese architecture’s rapid internationalization during this period of time and reposition the era as a vital moment in the history of China’s architectural and cultural production.
  • To insert Chinese architectural education, exchange and discourse within broader international histories of postmodernism.
  • To trace the conceptual and etymological roots of architectural discourse in China between 1973 and 1989.
  • To reassess China’s role as an earlier, more active, and more dynamic influence in the international architectural community between 1973 and 1989 than previously considered.

Results

My work has helped illuminate post-Cultural Revolution architectural development and exchange, a previously under-examined period of time in China’s architectural history. I’ve expanded the scope of my own knowledge concerning this period, and through my three research outputs, I’ve also contributed to the field of Chinese architectural historical scholarship. Each of my three peer-reviewed articles offers a new perspective on China’s architecture in relation to economic liberalization and internationalization over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Outputs

  • Cole Roskam, “Non-Aligned Architecture: China’s Designs on and in Ghana and Guinea, 1955-92.” Architectural History 58 (2015): 261-91.
  • Cole Roskam, “Practicing Reform: Experiments in Post-Revolutionary Chinese Architectural Production, 1973-1989.” Journal of Architectural Education 69, no. 1 (March 2015): 27-38.
  • Cole Roskam, “Envisioning Reform: The International Hotel in Postrevolutionary China, 1974-1990.” Grey Room 58, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 84-111.

Anticipated Impact

I hope that this work illuminates a previously underexamined period in 20th century Chinese architecture and expands our understanding of China’s architectural development in relationship to other architectural movements around the world at the time. Each of my three peer-reviewed articles offers new perspective on China’s architecture in relation to the country’s economic liberalization and internationalization over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s. Each article maintains its own unique focus on a particular dimension of China’s architectural production at the time, including the rise of the international hotel in China over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s, the expansion of China’s architectural exchanges and transformations within the Chinese design institute, as well as China’s architectural engagement with numerous countries within the African continent.

Designing Reform: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in the People’s Republic of China, 1973-1989 1Designing Reform: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in the People’s Republic of China, 1973-1989 2Designing Reform: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in the People’s Republic of China, 1973-1989 3Designing Reform: Post-Revolutionary Architectural Culture in the People’s Republic of China, 1973-1989 4
UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE