At Habitat III, in 2016, it was acknowledged that one-third of the world’s population still suffered from inadequate living conditions, making the imperative of Habitat 1976 ever urgent. In response to the recent release of the digital archive of all three U.N. Habitat conferences, this article reexamines the global conversations on human settlements at the first Habitat. By attending to the genealogies of ideas, definitions, geographies and identities, it revisits the moment when architects were in alignment with proponents of a comprehensive governmental approach to issues of human settlement. Crucially, it contends that the ideas behind Habitat offer a microcosm of the overlapping dualities produced in the dominant discourses of architectural modernism, ones that continue to be reproduced today.
H. Koon Wee, “An Incomplete Megastructure: The Golden Mile Complex, Global Planning Education and the Pedestrianized City,” The Journal of Architecture, 25:4, Jul 15, 2020, 472-506, DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2020.1767174.
New experiments were taking place in Singapore from the early 1960s onwards, as pedagogies and practices of urban design were being circulated among global experts and multiple stakeholders. New attitudes towards modernisation and urban renewal were developed then. Post-war humanist ideals of ‘social’ Brutalist architecture and revisionist attitudes towards high modernism and the overdevelopment of automobile infrastructure coursed through Singapore’s Golden Mile Complex (GMC). This was a project that attempted to address the problems of increased density and economic imperatives in the urban realm. This article focuses on the GMC as a contested site and as a built megastructure, in an effort to chart a new relationship between architecture, urban design, and the missed opportunity to develop a pedestrianised city. Designed by William S.W. Lim and the Design Partnership (DP), the GMC was an experiment in pedestrianised urbanism that differed from what had emerged in the original centres of invention and intellectual discourse in Singapore. Partly coinciding with the GMC’s design conception and construction, the period between 1962 and 1973 raised warnings against the ‘bulldozer addicts’ of urban renewal. It also witnessed the socially levelling roles of shopping, alternative models of urban circulation, and the emergence of extra-large architectural forms. This was also a short period of democratic debate and experimentation with mixed-use typologies and strata-title private ownership in the increased commercialisation of the city, fuelled by Singapore’s ambition to become a global city. The need to attract global capital and private consumerist functions made polarising demands on the development around the GMC. Alongside its aggressive urban renewal, Singapore was also keen to gain social legitimacy through its public housing programmes. The circulation of globally relevant pedagogies in urban design and planning formed the backdrop to an incomplete conception and realisation of an avant-garde megastructure specific to an Asian discourse of urban densification.
Seng, Eunice. Resistant City: Histories, Maps and the Architecture of Development. NJ; London; Singapore: World Scientific Press, 2020.
This vivid book is an inquiry into the stagnation between the development of architectural practice and the progress in urban modernization. It is about islands as territories of resistance. It is about dense places where multitudes dwell in perennial contestations with the city on every front. It is about the histories, tactics and spaces of everyday survival within the hegemonic sway of global capital and unstoppable development. It is preoccupied with making visible the culture of resistance and architecture’s entanglement with it. It is about urban resilience. It is about Hong Kong, where uncertainty is status quo.
This interdisciplinary volume explores real and invented places and identities that are created in tandem with Hong Kong’s urban development. Mapping contested spaces in the territory, it visualizes the energies and tenacity of the people as manifest in their daily life, social and professional networks and the urban spaces in which they inhabit. Embodying the multifaceted nature of the Asian metropolis, the book utilizes a combination of archival materials, public data sources, field observations and documentation, analytical drawings, models, and maps.
Koon Wee, “An Emergent Asian Modernism: Think Tanks and the Design of the Environment,” in The Impossibility of Mapping (Urban Asia), eds. Ute Meta Bauer, Khim Ong and Roger Nelson (Singapore: World Scientific Press, 2020), 36-55.
Think tanks across different parts of Asia played a specific role in the urban politics of modernization of Asia during the Cold War period. Technical aid from the United Nations and other forms of internationalization combined powerfully with modern urban and architectural pedagogies to aid newly formed governments in their push to legitimize an aggressive form of modernization. This paper is concerned with the social and urban modernization process, as a part of the ambition to theorize the massive “environmental” scale, and build modern cities quickly. It gave shape to the ways new governments treated civic society, social policies and their corresponding urban forms. Formed in the 1960s, the Asian Planning and Architectural Collaborative (APAC) and Singapore Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) were two of such think tanks at the heart of the process of researching and establishing new cultural and urban forms across Asia. Members of these think tanks were in fact aiding the state’s search for modern urban forms through their intellectual and professional work, while remaining apolitical and steering clear of the state’s governing machinery and organs. Core founding members of APAC, Fumihiko Maki, William Lim, Koichi Nagashima and Tao Ho were influenced by revisionist ideas of CIAM through Jaqueline Tyrwhitt during their education at Harvard. Later, Sumet Jumsai and Charles Correa were brought together with the group later through connections in Ekistics. Lim and Nagashima were also part of SPUR in Singapore around the same time, and the ideals of these two groups intersected during the 1960s and 1970s. Tyrwhitt continued to influence Asia through United Nations and Ekistics missions, staying connected with her former Harvard students. Maki recalls APAC as the closest approximation of a Team X in Asia.
Roskam, Cole. Improvised City: Architecture and Governance in Shanghai, 1843-1937. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019.
For nearly one hundred years, Shanghai was an international treaty port in which the extraterritorial rights of foreign governments shaped both architecture and infrastructure, and it merits examination as one of the most complex and influential urban environments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Improvised City illuminates the interplay between the city’s commercial nature and the architectural forms and practices designed to manage it in Shanghai’s three municipalities: the International Settlement, the French Concession, and the Chinese city.
This book probes the relationship between architecture and extraterritoriality in ways that challenge standard narratives of Shanghai’s built environment, which are dominated by stylistic analyses of major landmarks. Instead, by considering a wider range of town halls, post offices, municipal offices, war memorials, water works, and consulates, Cole Roskam traces the cultural, economic, political, and spatial negotiations that shaped Shanghai’s growth.
Improvised City repositions Shanghai within architectural and urban transformations that reshaped the world over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It responds to growing academic interest in the history of modern and contemporary Chinese architecture and urbanism; the ongoing, shifting relationship between sovereignty and space; and the variegated forms of urban exceptionality—such as special economic zones, tax-free trading spheres, and commercial enclaves—that continue to shape cities.
Zhou, Ying. “Lujiazui Shanghai: Urban Paragon for a Post-Socialist China.” In The Grand Projet: Towards Adaptable and Liveable Urban Megaprojects, edited by Kees Christiaanse, Anna Gasco, and Naomi Hanakata, 105–48. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2019. (url:The Grand Projet )
Zhou, Ying, and Desmond Choi. “West Kowloon, Hong Kong: A Transport-Oriented Development with Culture.” In The Grand Projet: Towards Adaptable and Liveable Urban Megaprojects, edited by Kees Christiaanse, Anna Gasco, and Naomi Hanakata, 149–98. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2019. (url:The Grand Projet )
Chu, Cecilia L. “‘Placing ‘Asia’ against the ‘West’: Occidentalism and the Production of Architectural Images in Shanghai and Hong Kong.” Architectural Theory Review Vol. 22, no. 3 (2018): 309-337.
This paper explores the idea of architecture and Occidentalism in the writings of building journals and illustrated magazines in the early twentieth century. More specifically, it examines how images of architecture, buildings and landscapes of the “West” and the “non-West” were used as key tropes to construct particular imaginaries and moral claims at a specific time and space: republican Shanghai and colonial Hong Kong from the mid-1920s to the late 1930s. Central to these developments was the emergence of new image-making practices that were made available by modern printing technologies, which led to a surge of production and circulation of images in the popular press. As a salient representation of modernity, progress and achievements of “civilizations,” images of architecture came to capture the attention of architects and builders, cultural producers and the fast-growing middle-class reading public in these metropolises. The exploration of these representational practices raises several questions: What kinds of assumptions about the “West” and the “non-West” were associated with these architectural images at this time? What kinds of new knowledge did the authors of these articles seek to produce through their experimentation with new visual and textual strategies? How did these representations relate to and differ from those in the more authoritative architectural historiographies? Finally, if these narrative productions about the West can be seen as processes of Occidentalism, what new historical insights do they offer?
Chu, Cecilia L. and Zhiyong Liang. “Tianyuan Dushi: Garden City, Urban Planning, and Visions of Modernization in Early 20th Century China.” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review 31, 1 (2019): 39-54.
Abstract: This paper examines how the garden city idea was introduced to China in the early 20th century and subsequently promoted by Chinese intellectuals and urban administrators as a means to promote urban improvement, economic development and nation-building. While the grand planning visions conceptualized in this period remained largely on paper, many aspects of the garden city were selectively adapted by philanthropic organizations and real estate developers as various “model settlements” that exemplified the norms of a “civilized society.” By examining the multiple interpretations of the garden city and its limited realization on Chinese soil, this article illustrates how a foreign planning concept was disseminated in a non-Western context and the specific ways in which it interacted with existing discourses about the city, the countryside and the roles of the state and citizens in the construction of competing visions of the urban future.
Lu, Xiaoxuan. “Divergent Memories of Tumen Shan-shui.” European Journal of Korean Studies 19, no. 1 (2019): 229-274.
Focusing on the interplay between memory and place, this article examines the rationale behind the use of axonometric drawings (axons) in a geographical research study of the Tumen/Tuman River region encompassing the borders shared by China, Russia and North Korea. The concepts of “memory of place” and “place of memory” guide the structure of this project and the flow of this article. “Memory of place” emphasises the lived experience of our physical senses, and helps determine the great potential of visual methodologies in the fields of geographical and landscape research and study. Drawn up using the graphic production techniques of abstracting, foregrounding, highlighting and juxtaposing, axons avail themselves of and inform both realist and idealist states of mind. In contrast, “place of memory” references a particular type of materiality and helps us understand Tumen Shan-shui as a library of memories that reveals a profusion of contested aesthetic, cultural and political meanings. Axons serve to tell narratives revealing desires, actions and undertakings that have shaped and continue to shape the substance of the memory sites in question including infra- structure, architecture and signage. Initially adopted by the author as a medium for recording and communicating due to security restrictions imposed in the border areas in question, the creation of axons generated new insights on methods of documentation in landscape research, and the places and landscapes themselves.
Seng, Eunice. “People’s Park Complex: The State, the Developer, the Architect and the Conditioned Public, C.1967 to the Present.” In Southeast Asia’s Modern Architecture: Questions of Translation, Epistemology and Power, edited by Chang Jiat-Hwee and Tajudeen Imran Bin, 236-73. Singapore: NUS Press, 2019.
This chapter examines the embedded contradictions in the building of the People’s Park Complex in Singapore and how it became the state’s primer for urban renewal. The building of the People’s Park Complex embodies the intersecting narratives that comprise descriptions of “Chinese” as defined by regional dialect groups and business associations, and the national designation of the term as an overarching, generalized racial definition. More significantly, it is instrumental in the formulation of a Chinese middle-class whose collective identity was perpetually and publicly reinforced by its proponents: the state, the developer, the entrepreneur and the architect. To what extent did the People’s Park Complex usher the self-conscious re-centering of the city’s identity, as differentiated from the colonial imagination of the Chinese people and their place in the city? How was the paradox of a model for social integration within a development schema played out in the building? This paper addresses these questions by examining the events, objects and ideas to which each of these groups projected and lay claim to the success of the People’s Park Complex as a viable commercial centre and urban public space. It attends to how the building was complicit in the national project of conditioning the people and producing public opinion. Designed for a projected middle-class Chinese public – then still an emergent urban politic of diaspora identities – the building inscribed Singapore as an exemplary modern city in Southeast Asia within the first decade of its completion. Methodologically, this paper turns to the newspaper, the government annual report and the building journal, through which the character of this public was described, circulated and codified.
H. Koon Wee, “The Emergence of the Global and Social City: Golden Mile and the Politics of Urban Renewal,” Planning Perspectives, Feb 2019.
This paper discusses the conflicted ideas of urban renewal under the economically progressive but inexperienced leadership of a young Singapore government. As the site of this study, the Golden Mile District shares its aspirational name with one of the first buildings built on it – the Golden Mile Complex. This district was planned to carry Singapore into the era of the global city. During the period of modernization in the 1960s, influential ideas were propagated through different United Nations experts. Singapore used these recommendations to legitimize an aggressive form of urban renewal, but it also encouraged greater participation by think tanks with greater intellectual and research sophistication. This marked Singapore’s most democratic period of public debate and participation in urban policy-making. The advancements made by the Singapore Planning and Urban
Research group, and Lim’s built megastructure and unbuilt linear city came about under these liberal conditions. Consumerist functions and civic-minded forms were combined to produce unprecedented but ultimately unexpected socio-urban effects. This episode revealed that Singapore’s successful legacy of modernization was always exclusively narrated by the state, but there was an under-documented tussle was between the sociopolitical capital of Singapore’s public housing programme, and the economic acceleration of private and global consumerist functions.
If the Avant-garde of the early twentieth century was able to establish a new form of identity in architecture by denouncing all classical conventions of architecture, and by severing ties with ornamentation and traditional forms, there was a short period where Design Partnership, the predecessor of DP Architects, persisted with the same Avant-garde agendas. But they did so with a deeper understanding of the human condition and Asian density and economic limitations after the Second World War. Decolonization, social movements, and the promise of an enlarged civic sphere were the critical issues many newly formed Asian governments were grappling with. The founders of Design Partnership were also leaders of the think tank SPUR, and they described the unrestricted growth of linear city with the same relentlessness and heroism, in an effort to identify a relevant and innovative urban form for Asia. Apart from echoing the familiar persuasions of “economy” and “frictionless expansion,” SPUR had an obsession with new modes of urban transportation and continuous circulatory systems. This paper explores the exhilarating architectural and urban forms, and theoretical ideas developed during first two decades of Design Partnership.
Chu, Cecilia L. “Envisioning Future Pasts: Heritage and Emergent Activism in Postcolonial Macau and Hong Kong.” In Urban Asias: Essays on Futurity Past and Present, edited by Tim Bunnell and Daniel P.S. Goh, 64-76. Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2018.
Abstract: This essay contributes to the discussion of urban futures in Asia by examining heritage conservation as a specific kind of future-oriented urban intervention through which different social actors seek to reshape the forms and norms of cities. More specifically, it explores these dynamics in Macau and Hong Kong, two postcolonial city-states that have seen a rapid rise of social activism centering on heritage protection in recent years. By attending to the narratives of different stakeholders, I elucidate the divergent motivations in conservation campaigns and the importance of historical experiences in shaping possessive relationships to the city. The comparison of Macau and Hong Kong further shows that their very different forms of “colonial heritage” have continued to serve as key references for the construction of cultural imaginaries of the past. At the same time, the growing desire for building a more open and democratic society amidst economic and political integration with China has helped galvanized alternate visions of the future that are increasingly shared by citizenries in both territories.
Zhou, Ying “Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Production in Shanghai’s City Center 城中之隙 上海城市中心地帶空间发展中的創意性合作” (2017, Birkhäuser, ISBN 978-3035611045)
Chu, Cecilia L. “Constructing a New Domestic Discourse: The Modern Home in Architectural Journals and Mass Market Texts in Early 20th Century China.” Journal of Architecture 22, 6 (September 2017): 1066-1091.
Abstract: This article explores how changing ideals of the modern home were articulated in China’s architectural journals and mass market texts during the 1920s and 1930s, More specifically, I examine how the design of residential houses and domestic arrangements became a subject of intellectual and political concern for architects and cultural intermediaries. By tracing the competing moral claims ascribed to the modern home through these writings, I illustrate their shifting assumptions about the “social role” of architecture in the Chinese context. I argue that while these critiques were closely related to those in Europe and elsewhere, they were specific responses to accelerating capitalist urbanization in China and were undergirded by a shared anxiety among Chinese elites and professional experts to institute an authentic modern design culture. Central to their efforts was the belief that well designed dwellings would not only help to improve the lives of Chinese citizens, but also transform their everyday day habits and develop China into a more “civilized,” healthy and productive nation. While modern architecture was promoted by architects as a means to modernization and social betterment, they were also presented by builders and property investors to encourage consumption for the home by projecting imaginaries of modern domestic life. Explorations of these competing conceptions will contribute to a fuller understanding of the contradictory perspectives of architecture and domesticity in an unsettling period characterized by simmering social discontent and emerging nationalism. The attention to lesser known figures in this study will also elucidate the multifarious exchange of knowledge between different factions of architects and institutions beyond the familiar ones represented in existing historiography.
Devabhaktuni, Sony. “On Writing / Drawing.” In Go Field & Towers, edited by Guillaume Othenin-Girard and Nigel Peake, 223-229. Paris: Amarillo Press, 2017.
Liang, Zhiyong. “從平民村到工人新村–上海公營住宅延續的文明教化使命, 1927-1951年 [From Village for Commoners to Workers’ New Village–The Continual Civilising Mission of Shanghai’s Public Housing, 1927-1951].” Time+ Architecture 時代建築 2(2017): 30-35.
Abstract: This article aims to explore the continuity of Shanghai’s public housing development in the first half of the 20th century. It seeks to examine three important aspects of the Republican “Villages for Commoners” and the Socialist “Workers’ New Village.” The first is the changing meanings ascribed to the term “new village,” which had since the 1920s become the name of many pioneering urban proposals as well as a key site of housing reform. Second, it examines different ways of thinking about the role of housing reform and urban governance in building a new society in Republican China. Third, it analyses the role of different actors, such as government and professionals, in shaping the practice and narratives of public housing. Through the comparison of the Republican “Villages for Commoners” and the Socialist “Workers’ New Village,” it argues that the civilising mission and “scientific” comprehensive planning originating from early 20th century had been passed on in the Republican public housing projects and the Socialist New Village development, despite their difference in ideology and urban policy.
Zhou, Ying. Urban Loopholes: Creative Alliances of Spatial Productions in Shanghai’s City Center. Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2017.
Taking cases from the until-now little-analyzed un-demolished remains of city center neighborhoods in Shanghai, the book Urban Loopholes:
Creative Alliances of Spatial Production in Shanghai’s City Center by Dr. Ying Zhou unpacks the seemingly anarchic and opportunistic urban spatial production system of the contemporary Chinese city to address what has perplexed Western public as well as scholars alike.
Zhou, Ying. “Gentrification with Chinese Characteristics? City Centre Transformations in Shanghai.” In Progress & Prosperity The Chinese City as Global Urban Model, 68–83. Amsterdam: NAi Publishers, 2017.
Zhou, Ying 周颖. “After the Natural: Studies in Singapore’s Built Environment [自然之后：新加坡建成环境研究].” LEAP [艺术界], January 2017, 29–35.
Seng, Eunice. “The City in a Building: a Brief Social History of Urban Hong Kong.”sITA 5 –
Marginalia. Limits within the Urban Realm (2017): 81-98.
Arising from the intensive urban development of mid-twentieth century Hong Kong, the composite building, defined as one with domestic and non-domestic functions, embodies the historical tensions between city and home, public and private, producer and consumer, colonial and Chinese, real and ideal, masculine and feminine realms. Between 1959 and 1979, over 1,500 composite buildings above fifteen stories were built throughout the city. Intended to accommodate the emerging industrialized middle class population, the largest composite buildings housed over ten thousand inhabitants within an agglomeration of shops, factories, temples, clinics, crèches, dormitories, hostels, flats, and other spaces. Their architecture and planning demonstrate how developers, planners, architects and builders projected the notions of a consumerist society.
Yet a closer analysis of the multifarious programs, spatial adaptations and contestations within, reveals the human caprice that drives and defines the city. How did these tensions and everyday acts of resistance shape the spaces in the composite buildings and in turn, define and redefine the city? In examining the brief social history of a commonplace building in Hong Kong, this paper unpacks the tropes of the modern Asian metropolis to seek an alternative framework to understand the precarious limits between the urban and the domestic.
This essay examines the building of the Southeast Asian luxury hotel during the 1960s and 1970s as instrumental to the reshaping and consolidation of the global image of modernity for the region. While the war against slums and homelessness was being fought in the new towns, with public and private housing estates and blocks of flats for the working and middle classes, the branding of the modern Asian city was taking place at the waterfront and in the main thoroughfares of these cities.
This book brings into focus the urgent social roles of architects, urbanists and scholars of the urban realm. The participation of citizens, private enterprises, the state and other agencies are carefully studied in order to grapple with the agents of change in complex social issues in China. This area of study focuses on the design discipline as a contribution towards society. There are delicate questions in the use of architecture in relation to issues of social mobility and labor rights, class and gender equality, cultural sensitivity and artistic expressions, education and pedagogies, identity and privacy, rise of big data and social media, and many others. The Social Imperative surveys the tactics and ambitions of contemporary architectural practices in China in order to gain an understanding of the level of resilience towards some clearly defined social issues.
Many of the underlying social problems are unique to China. They require a deeper understanding of the conditions of rapid urbanization, extreme privatization of property ownership (with inadequate alternative private-public initiatives), rapid wealth accumulation and fetishism of luxury consumption, absorption of the world’s manufacture of affordable consumer’s goods, and many other conditions. In the production of architecture and the rapid expansion of cities, architects are often complicit with the power structure that perpetuate these imbalances. Hence, it is unsurprising to discover a generation of neo avant garde architects, educators, curators, and intellectuals who are keen to reclaim architecture for the good of society. Many of them are contributors of the manifestos and research projects in this book. Framed by a theoretical and critical introduction by the author, this book introduces the theme by investigating the original aspirations of socialist theories and politics that once favored the people. This book is organized around eight chapters according to the canons of social actions – mobilizing, laboring, resisting, mediating, networking, controlling, rationalizing and aestheticizing. The intellectual framework and selection of new scholarship and case studies were conceived entirely by the author. It was accomplished in a three-year study period funded by AA Asia from 2013 to 2015. Founded in 1993, AA Asia is an Asia-wide non-governmental society committed to the study of contemporary architecture in Asia, and it has published and funded 13 monographs to date.
Chu, Cecilia L. “Narrating the Mall City.” In Stefan Al, ed., Mall City: Hong Kong’s Dreamworlds of Consumption, 83-90. Hong Kong University Press, 2016. ISBN-10 0824855418
This book is concerned with urban sustainability through an interdisciplinary approach, and it is part of the author’s research focus on the effects of modernization on society and the city. This publication is the culmination of a two-year publication and think tank project led by Professor William Lim and Asian Urban Lab. It was examining Singapore as a case study at the cusp of the nation’s 50-year Golden Jubilee. Singapore Dreaming: Managing Utopia establishes a number of interrelated fields of analysis and critique, namely, the urban, historical, geographical, artistic, and social, as the nation reflects on its successes and the challenges ahead.
The intellectual framework of this publication was provided by H. Koon Wee, and it was reflected in the introductory essay entitled “We Have Only Been Modern.” This introduction situates the research and social value of the whole project, setting up Singapore as an advanced post-industrial Asian state valuable as an exemplar, but also worthy of a caution. The well-established successes of Singapore were largely narrated by the state and endorsed by the participants of the globalized economy. This book explores how the state carefully constructs and controls the society it governs, especially through the lens of nationalism and globalization. In 2017, this book was reviewed by Mrinalini Rajagopalan in the Planning Perspectives journal published by Taylor & Francis. Former HKU Vice-Chancellor Wang Gungwu also provided a lengthy commentary on the book in his lecture as the guest of honor at the book launch in March 2016. For more details: https://youtu.be/nk24lv1BhbI.
Eric H Schuldenfrei, “The Films of Charles and Ray Eames” (2015)
The Films of Charles and Ray Eames traces the history of the Eameses’ work, examining their evolution away from the design of mass-produced goods and toward projects created as educational experiences. Closely examining how the Eameses described their work reveals how the films and exhibitions they generated were completely at odds with the earlier objectives exemplified in their furniture designs. Shifting away from promoting the consumer-culture, they turned their attention to the presentation of complex sets of scientific, artistic, and philosophical ideas.
During a critical period from the late 1950s to the early 1960s there was a moment of introspective self-reflection in the West stemming from the events of the Cold War. This moment of uncertainty was crucial, for it provided the incentive to question the values and concerns of society as a whole. In turn, designers began to question their own sense of purpose, temporarily expanding the purview of design to a broader field of inquiry. In the case of the Eameses, they identified an overriding problem related to consumerism and excess in America and sought to resolve the issue by creating a network of communication between universities, governments, institutions, and corporations. The solution of promoting greater education experiences as an alternative to consumerism in America required that different sectors of society functioned in unison to address political, social, economic, and educational concerns. The Films of Charles and Ray Eames reconsiders how design intersects with humanity, culture, and the sciences.
This publication was made possible through generous funding from the Graham Foundation. Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programmes to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.
Chu, Cecilia L. and Romola Sanyal. “Spectacular Cities of Our Time.” Geoforum 65 (October 2015):
399-402. (Editorial for a special issue, entitled “Spectacle Cities”).
Cole Roskam, “Non-Aligned Architecture: China’s Designs on and in Ghana and Guinea, 1955-1992.” Architectural History 58 (2015): 161-91.
Abstract: This article examines a series of architectural collaborations between the People’s Republic of China and two of sub-Saharan Africa’s first decolonized governments in Ghana and Guinea. It offers an introduction into the nature of diplomatic exchange between these three countries, the geopolitical forces at work in such development, and the architecture that resulted.
Contextualizing early international relations between China, Ghana and Guinea through architectural form and practice offers new insight, not only into the history of Chinese aid in Africa, but as it concerns the dynamics shaping Chinese engagement with numerous African countries today. As physical evidence of new Sino-African partnerships, Chinese design and construction projects in both Ghana and Guinea presented a welcome alternative to preexisting, colonial and Cold War-era infrastructural production models. Analysis of the works themselves, however, coupled with the political and ideological rhetoric behind their production, reveals a kind of cross-cultural cooperation inscribed with many of the same operational and, over time, epistemic imbalances that marked other kinds of foreign architectural engagement with Africa.
Cole Roskam, “Practicing Reform: Experiments in Post-Revolutionary Chinese Architectural Production, 1973-1989.” Journal of Architectural Education (JAE) 69, no. 1 (March 2015): 28-39.
Abstract: This article explores the relationship between architectural praxis and political economic reform in China between 1973 and 1989. It looks specifically at how modifications in the practice of architectural design corresponded to the project of socialist China’s economic liberalization.
My research seeks to locate the emergence of what can be considered the “crisis” of reform in China not through architectural form or aesthetics, per se, but rather through substantial changes in the way that the industry of architectural design was organized and managed. A closer examination of significant shifts in the methods of design, the operative mechanisms through which designs were created and implemented, and the degree of international engagement involved in socialist Chinese design production offers new insight into how reform-era Chinese architectural practice helped to both catalyze and index broader processes of cultural change.
Cole Roskam, “Envisioning Reform: The International Hotel in Post-Revolutionary China, 1974-1990.” Grey Room 58, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 84-111.
This article explores the reemergence of the international hotel in early reform-era Chinese architectural and political culture, beginning with the Beijing Hotel’s appearance on the May 1974 cover of China’s premier architectural journal and culminating in John Portman’s Shanghai Centre, completed in 1993. It positions the hotel as an important site of intermediacy, both in physical and conceptual terms, that facilitated the fulfillment of new economic and programmatic needs considered crucial to economic reform. As my research argues, reconciling new modes of architectural thinking and production with prevailing socialist theory and practice through and within the hotel was controversial and destabilizing, but it helped reposition China within the global economy while establishing a theoretical underpinning for Chinese architectural development and discourse that remains relevant today.
Chu, Cecilia L. “Spectacular Macau: Visioning Futures for A World Heritage City.” Geoforum 65 (October 2015): 440-450.
This paper examines the conflicting sentiments generated by Macau’s recent developments and how these dynamics have helped galvanize particular visions amongst Macau’s residents holding different possessive relationships to the city. More specifically, it explores these processes through the simultaneous construction of two incongruent landscapes: a fantasyland of gaming and leisure propelled by the liberalization of the casino industry, and a ‘historic city of culture’ exemplified by Macau’s newly acquired UNESCO World Heritage City status. Building on Debord’s conception of the dialectic of the spectacle, this paper illustrates how the growing support for heritage conservation in Macau has been propelled by a shared anxiety over the phenomenal changes brought by an expanding casino industry and concomitant erosion of Macau’s cultural identity. Through extensive interviews with local architects, conservation experts and activists, I elucidate how the designation of Macau as a World Heritage City has helped consolidate particular sets of moral claims around heritage and culture as well as introduced new commodifications of the environment that cannot be easily delinked from other spaces of the ‘spectacle city.’
Cole Roskam, “Situating Chinese Architecture within ‘A Century of Progress’: The Chinese Pavilion, The Bendix Golden Temple, and the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 73, no. 3 (September 2014): 347-71.
Abstract: This article explores the overlooked role played by Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair in China’s twentieth-century architectural development. The exposition initially represented a valuable opportunity for China’s recently established Guomindang administration to highlight its new political agenda. However, extensive archival research has yielded a complex narrative of numerous financial and geopolitical obstacles that would eventually prevent official Chinese participation. Instead, two “unofficial” structures were completed on China’s behalf: a privately financed Chinese pavilion, and a piece-by-piece reconstruction of the Golden Temple, an eighteenth-century Tibetan Buddhist shrine, sponsored by the Chicago-based industrialist Vincent Bendix. Detailed analysis of visual and textual evidence of both buildings reveals a more tangled intertwining of international forces impacting early twentieth-century Chinese architectural representation than the challenges already known to have existed. This article argues that the fair be re-assessed as an important new point of inquiry in the history of modern Chinese architectural discourse and development.
Chu, Cecilia. “Combating Nuisance: Sanitation, Regulation, and the Politics of Property in Colonial Hong Kong.” In Robert Peckham and David Pomfret, eds., Imperial Contagions: Medicine and the Cultures of Planning in Asia, 17-36. Hong Kong University Press, 2013. ISBN 979-988-8139-52-
Chu, Cecilia. “Shanzheng (善政) and Gongde (公德): Moral Regulation and Narratives of ‘Good Government’ in Colonial Hong Kong.” Journal of Historical Geography 42 (October 2013): 180-192.
While ‘good government’ has long been hailed as a defining feature of colonial Hong Kong, this paper argues that it should be seen as an epistemological ordering frame whose existence relied upon constant processes of moralization undertaken by many actors across multiple scales. Central to this was the invocation of certain ways of thinking about the roles of government and citizens implicit in Chinese historical experience. These moral constructs, transplanted and transformed within the colonial milieu, became central elements in the way many British officials and Chinese residents came to express themselves, and by doing so constituted themselves as governing subjects upholding colonial rule. To explore the role of these constructs in particular situated practices and broader strategies of colonial governance, this paper focuses on two case studies concerning the improvement of public health amidst growing threats of epidemics between 1900 and 1908. Although these efforts were not successful in containing the spread of diseases, the emphasis on self-help and revival of ‘local traditions’ for encouraging people to improve their neighborhoods helped engender a sense of pride and solidarity amongst the Chinese residents and propagated the idea that Hong Kong was an orderly, ‘civilized’ Chinese society superior to that of mainland China itself. Although both case studies are drawn from particular sites, it is clear that the initiation, implementation and effects of the projects were not confined to the local scale, but were tied to larger shifts in the forms of governance and emerging political discourses beyond Hong Kong. They thus highlight the ‘networks of multiple scales’ and the translocal processes through which competing conceptions of Hong Kong and its relations to the world were actively being constructed by different actors under colonial rule.
Zhou, Ying. “上海中心城区: 在全球愿景和本土构架之间 [Between global aspirations and local frameworks: city center Shanghai].” Urban China 城市中国 56 (2013): 68–73.
Seng, Eunice. “Politics of Greening: Spatial Constructions of the Public in Singapore.” In Non West Modernist past: On Architecture & Modernities, edited by Lim, William Siew Wai, and Chang Jiat-Hwee. Chang, 143-160. Singapore: World Scientific Pub., 2012.
This chapter traces the ideological development of open space and its inextricable relationship with housing during the formative years of the public housing programme in Singapore. Such an intersection is especially compelling in Singapore where the twin machinery of housing and open space not only is instrumental in the social, political and economic development of the city but also in the formation of the public sphere. The argument advanced is twofold: one, that the provision and designation of open spaces is complicit with the construction of high-density housing in producing a middle-class ideal based on ideas that reach back into the colonial period; and two, (extending the critique made by the sociologist Chua Beng-Huat) that the communitarian ideology embedded in the State’s housing programme produces a compliant mass population, constituting the public body, which is continually persuaded by the rhetoric of contingency.reconstruction by the governing power.
Zhou, Ying. “Urban Loopholes: Tactics of Survival and Manifestations of Desires in Damascus.” Critical Planning 17, no. Resilient Cities (October 2010): 88–107.