China is the world’s most populous city, holds a huge share of industries that contribute to socio-economic, financial, and other major elements that benefit a nation. Shanghai and Beijing being the most populous in the country, truly manifest their economic backgrounds. It is not just the people, but also the power of political influencers that successfully satisfy the primary requirements of the nation. 

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Architecture and engineering, being the most basic disciplines, serve humans with the best possible resources, have successfully revolutionized political theories in hundreds of ways. 

Historical Influence

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Mao Zedong on horseback in 1947, during the Chinese civil war. – ©Sovfoto/Universal
Images Groups – nytimes.com

Architecture in China has transformed over the years as a modern construction and civilization, with Japanese and Western influences. Engineering and technology were considered as a weapon to boost the country’s economy. There is no doubt in how quickly China flourishes and establishes its significance in the world. 

The earlier architects, being the first generation architects in the 1920 and 30s, fulfilled their educational requirements in the United States and bloomed China’s architecture and technical skills on a massive level. They exhibited their knowledge and excellence for the benefit of their fellow members. Along with establishing their own private firms, the architects in China brought back Beaux-Arts tradition, professional skills, and Modern techniques. 

It was not just the modern style that inspired the architects and designers but also the idea of mixing and harmonizing Classic Chinese Architecture and the Modern Style.

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Political Influence

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Political Influence – ©bostonreview.net

Architecture as an engineering discipline has its roots deeply immersed in major political disciplines. Nationalism, Socialism, and Modernization are the three fundamental political discourses that are refined and well-structured in the political backgrounds of the country. These political discourses were further transformed into Architectural Concepts, ‘National Form’, ‘Socialist Realism’ and ‘Modern Architecture.’ During Mao’s Era, these architectural ideologies came into play. 

The historical and architectural advancements in China flourished during the three significant periods: Formative (the 1950s), Radical (1960s), and Pragmatic (1970s).

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Clashes between Modern and National Style

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Stencil near Cairo’s Tahrir square. February 2012. Photo by Jonathan Rashad – ©atlanticcouncil.org

The 1950s was the time during which the Republic of China was newly formed but along with the development of the nation and its people, came the challenge to balance the social, political, and financial views of China’s citizens. There were diversifications, financial crises, caste discrimination, and struggles with the rising consciousness of nationality. People couldn’t see the outcomes of all the work that went into perfecting their own nation very clearly. So, there had to be a well-defined protocol to make the citizens understand the benefits one receives.

Rise of Architecture in Major Cities

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Beijing – ©quicksilvertranslate.com
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Guangzhou – ©news.cgtn.com

First buildings in the Modernist Style (the 1970s) were seen in Guangzhou and Beijing considering the foreign affairs, which was a major alteration for the new China and attracted many from different nations. Foreign trades gave rise to different building styles, design techniques and also enhanced China’s reputation in the most positive ways. Multinational companies and global networks recognized China as a nation developing internally with the ability to achieve technological advancements.

Friendship Hotel by Zhang Bo

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Friendship Hotel in Beijing, 1954. Architect: Zhang Bo. Reprinted from Jianzhu Xuebao, 1954(1): 47. – ©researchgate.net

The Friendship Hotel in Beijing, China, was designed by Zhang Bo. The hotel perfectly demonstrates the National Style. Liang Sicheng, the dean of the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University, published an article, ‘The Characteristics of Chinese Architecture.’ In this detailed article, he attempted to summarize the prominent characteristics of Chinese Architecture. 

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With these 9 characteristics of Chinese Architecture, he also shed some light on Classical Architecture while emphasizing the components of the structure.

Wood Comprehensive Utilization Exhibition Hall

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Wood Comprehensive Utilization Exhibition Hall, Beijing. Architect: Lin Leyi. Reprinted from Jianzhu Xuebao, 1960(2): 38. – ©researchgate.net

The Wood Comprehensive Utilization Exhibition Hall in Beijing, China, is an architectural manifestation of Modernism. The approach to developing such a sense of architectural style was really simple. With the implication of materials, the structures were designed and executed to exhibit the simplest and fundamental architectural elements. It was an effort made by the architect to figure out the aesthetic appeal of the Modern Style in modern China. The materials truly highlighted the structural elements, which were the prime focus of the exhibition hall.

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Design Evolution

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Low-cost Construction in the Design Revolution. Reprinted from Jianzhu Xuebao, 1966(3): 33. – ©researchgate.net

Wu Xingyuan, in 1966, stated that the disciplines in architecture should be pragmatic and egalitarian instead of just a luxury. Aesthetics should be a commodity for a few significant buildings, especially for the political and monumental buildings. If everyone in China wished and adapted to High Standards of living, the construction costs would be inevitably high. 

Hence, there was an urgent need to lower the demands related to the idea of ‘aesthetic building.’ After gradually reducing the demands, the concept of ‘Low-cost Construction’.

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Protesters march on the street during a rally against the extraditiosn law proposal
on June 9th 2019 in Hong-Kong, China – ©AnthonyKwan – hrw.org

The influence of political aspects has proved to be positive for China. Different eras and different opinions benefited the country and the people in brilliant ways. But every country has downfalls in political, social-economic, health, and financial status from time to time. All in all, China flourished tremendously in the last few decades and continues to be achieving even better platforms with architecture, engineering, and technology as its powerful tools.

References

Zhu, J. (2004). Architecture of Modern China (Routledge 2009) and the editor of Sixty Years of Chinese Architecture. [online] CABP. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/327374779.pdf [Accessed 28 July. 2021].

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Liu Qiyi and Sullivan, M. (2017). Chinese architecture – Stylistic and historical development since 1912. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/Chinese-architecture/Stylistic-and-historical-development-since-1912.

Author

As an architecture enthusiast she takes active interest in exploring different ethnicities and tries to find a perfect medium to integrate the cultural diversities from an architect’s as well as a writer’s point of view. Pure imagination and knowledge is what she conveys through her words.

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