Cultural Fever: Postmodern Effects in Sino-American Architecture

It is widely recognized that the advanced architecture of the 1970s-80s left a legacy of experimentation and theoretical speculation as intense as any in architecture’s history. This seminar will begin with an in-depth exploration of selected practices and projects of the period. Using the tools of poststructuralism together with Lacan's RSI, we will construct an interpretation of this work that is historically specific and yet sets the terms and the challenges of all subsequent architectural practice, including today's.

The seminar will expand the account of the architectural effects of poststructuralist theory from the standard Euro-American context to the special context of China’s so-called “cultural fever.” French intellectuals of the late 1960s and early 1970s viewed “China” as a prime rubric under which a new post-structuralist episteme could be developed, thanks to their sympathy for Mao and the Cultural Revolution. The half-actual, half-fictionalized “China” of the French intellectuals was accepted, adopted, and further complicated by some Chinese readers since the 1980s, including artists and architects, who added yet other layers of meaning to the concept. The result has been a multi-layered, cross-cultural misreading and misuse of poststructuralist thought and China’s historical reality, one that has nonetheless profoundly shaped the contemporary state of Chinese architecture.