Towards a Critical Pragmatism: Contemporary Architecture in China

From the last decades of the twentieth century leading up to today, much attention has been paid to the expedient strategies that have driven construction activities in China. Distinct from the shortsighted operations, an experimental phase in Chinese architecture emerged in the early 1990s. Independent practices headed by Yungho Chang, Wang Shu, and Liu Jiakun, among others, resisted the prevailing attitudes of contemporary Chinese society and mainstream forms of construction attributable to state-owned design institutes.

Zhu Pei on contemporary architecture in China:

Zhu Pei on contemporary architecture in China.

Confronted with a complex social and cultural mileux, the current generation of Chinese architects is made to negotiate the categorical polarities within which they operate, oppositions ranging from architectural autonomy and social conditions, globalization and localization, to politics and form. In handling the realities of building and realizing their designs in the Chinese context, today’s practicing architects are tasked with engaging practical concerns as well as speculative modes of thinking.

Wang Shenfei and Zhu Xiaofeng on the international recognition of contemporary Chinese architects:

“Towards a Critical Pragmatism” is a survey of contemporary architectural practices in China. It showcases around sixty buildings within five thematic categories: cultural, regeneration, digital, rural, and residential. The selected architects attempt to maintain, from the earliest moments of the design process to its finished outcome, a certain level of conceptual criticality and quality of production. This exhibition traces a Chinese architectural landscape that has shifted beyond embracing measures of expediency and quantitative output as exclusive criteria with which to evaluate architecture. We hope that the GSD exhibition opens up a new avenue from which to encourage further conversation regarding both the present and future state of China’s architecture culture.

—Li Xiangning, Deputy Dean and Professor in History, Theory and Criticism at Tongji University College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Yichen Lu on the exhibition:

Exhibition Design

SO – IL: Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg, Associate Professor in Practice of Architecture; Ilias Papageorgiou; Christopher Riley (MArch ’17)