chapter  12
26 Pages

Formation and re-formation of the architecture profession in China: Episodes, underlying aspects, and present needs


Peter G. Rowe and Bing Wang The formation and re-formation of the architecture profession in China largely conformed to three relatively distinct episodes. They were: the Republican and Nationalist period of early professional development, the first thirty years of the Communist regime under Mao Zedong, and the present period of gradual reform and opening up to the outside world that began under Deng Xiaoping. Each episode progressed from a radically different starting point from the preceding period, although through graduated steps of transition. Throughout, the interplay between the state and the profession was neither entirely one-way nor thoroughly controlling, except in a couple of instances when what might have been considered normal architectural production was suspended. Each episode of professional formation entailed a process of wholesale borrowing from a foreign source, but with either simultaneous or later tailoring to match prevalent indigenous conditions of practice. Often, there were strong ties between professional practice and architectural education, through which returning overseas-trained architects and academics became strong agents of change. Each episode of professional formation also took place against a backdrop of significant demand for urban reconstruction and building and was shaped accordingly. At present, it is difficult to say that the Chinese architecture profession has arrived in any fully autonomous and completely functioning sense, although considerable strides have been made during the past ten years. What remains are further reforms in architectural education, further restructuring of professional practice opportunities, and more transparency and accountability within the building industry, of which professional activity is a part. It is also not clear, the way events are transpiring, that a self-regulatory, Western-style system of practice will necessarily materialize, in spite of a considerable amount of emulation.