Twenty Plateaus, 1910s–2010s
DOI link for Twenty Plateaus, 1910s–2010s
Twenty Plateaus, 1910s–2010s book
Architecture may be studied as a single object of an architect’s design or as part of a continuous built environment in a socio-spatial setting. In the first instance, buildings are appreciated as isolated monuments in an abstract professional discourse such as architectural history, in which the design of the object attains a discursive and symbolic significance above that particular socio-spatial context. In the second, however, that isolated significance is no longer relevant whereas an overall social continuum and socio-spatial practice in that context are of paramount importance. Both approaches are of course important. Of those adopting the first approach, and in the area of modern Chinese architecture, we can identify three groups of studies: those on jindai or ‘early modern’ Chinese architecture (from 1840 or 1911 to 1949), those on modern Chinese architecture of the twentieth century with a focus on the post-1949 periods, and those in contemporary design forums on today’s practice in relation to certain theories. If the first is represented by the collaborative work of the Chinese and Japanese led by Wang Tan and Terunobu Fujimori since the mid-1980s, the second may be best represented in Zou Denong’s Zhongguo Xiandai Jianzhu Shi (A history of modern Chinese architecture, 2001), whereas the third includes various discussions amongst architects and students at conferences, in magazines and on websites such as <abbs.com. cn>. If we put them together, we will find artificial historical divisions framing their discussions and also separating their observations from each other. Whereas the first does not concern itself with the complex relations leading into the post-1949 periods (or earlier intellectual currents before 1840), the second implicitly privileges the Maoist period of 1949-78 and a government perspective, thus ignoring a recent individualist development in post-Mao China. The third, on the other hand, as unfolding among individual (especially young) architects and students, is predominantly non-historical: it operates in an assumed freedom of possibilities without a historical perspective and is sometimes at a loss when a normative position in design is to be defined. How to transcend these biased and limited views? How to break down these historical and methodological barriers or divisions? The problem therefore is as follows: Can we establish a general framework of all significant design currents or positions in modern China? Can we, as a first step towards this purpose, develop a general map or chart of all these important design positions in twentiethcentury China?