Modern Architecture and Urbanism in China

Modernizing influences, largely from the hands of foreign powers, first forcefully entered into China and began to take root in the aftermath of the Opium War and the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. At first, these influences were primarily confined to Treaty Ports, concessions from the spoils of the Opium Wars, and some other foreign endeavors. Over time, Qing Dynasty China\’s earlier stand-offish attitude towards these incursions became replaced by concern with the foreign threat and increasingly serious questioning of their own institutional structures and place in the world. By 1911 Revolution was well underway, resulting in the toppling of the Qing and the unsteady formation of a modern republic. Years past, under deteriorated conditions of factionalism and with Japan, by then a power in East Asia, making territorial demands. Two opposing ideological camps, the Communists and the Nationalists, also began to emerge, although with the Nationalists in the ascendancy throughout large parts of China. With the full-scale outbreak of the War of Resistance against Japan in 1937, a United Front was joined, only to be irreversibly broken at the end of World War II with the advent of civil war. The victorious Communists came to power in 1949 and immediately began to re-fashion China as a modern Marxist-socialist state. After a short though propitious start, the country was then plunged into the tragic follies of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, also becoming isolated once again. Then in 1978, with the historic opening up to the outside world, economic if not social circumstances began to change drastically, as China shifted from being a welfare state into a socialist market economy. The contemporary period now finds the nation with burgeoning modern industrialization and urbanization and a certain ambivalence about the precise shape of its future identity.Against this backdrop, modern architecture and urbanism has developed in fits and starts, before coming on strongly during the past decade or so, at least in some regions of China. Therefore, rather than attempting to provide a continuous cohesive narrative, this course will concentrate on specific episodes of modern architecture and urban development. The aim will be to introduce students to these modern developments and also to explore the boundaries of present knowledge about the subject in the form of researchable areas of interest. At present the literature about Chinese modern architecture and urbanism is relatively sparse, particularly in an analytical and critical mode of inquiry. Students will be expected to be prepared for seminar discussion, by undertaking prescribed readings, and to produce a research paper on a pertinent subject.