Modern Architecture and Urbanism in China

Contrary to many interpretations, by the early Qing Dynasty some modern traits, in the accepted Western sense of modernity, had entered China and been developed indigenously. Then more forcefully other modernizing influences were exercised, largely from the hands of modern powers, in the aftermath of the Opium War and the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. Since then China endured a stormy and tumultuous course of events before finding itself with burgeoning industrialization and urbanization in the contemporary era, as well as a certain ambivalence about the shape of its future identity. Against this historical backdrop, modern architecture and urbanism developed spasmodically, before emerging strongly during the past several decades. Rather than attempting to provide a continuous and cohesive narrative of this trajectory, this seminar will concentrate on significant episodes during the last 150 years or so, preceded by commentary about earlier modernization and traditional manners of spatial appreciation. This will cover matters of both architecture and physical planning including issues of new production and conservation. Of particular interest will be the work of several generations of Chinese architects, planners, and public officials, as well as that of foreign architects and planners working in China at various periods. The aim of the course will be to introduce students to this modern work and underlying attitudes, together with cultural influences which lay behind them. Students will be expected to be prepared for seminar discussion, by undertaking prescribed readings, and to produce a well-grounded and researched documentation and critical assessment of an assigned architectural or constructed project in class. 

Course structure

First Synchronous Meeting, Wednesday January 27, 10am to 12 noon EST, 70 minutes via zoom online with the entire class.

Subsequent Synchronous Meetings, Wednesdays 10am to 12 noon EST, 70 minute max via zoom, including breaks with the entire class meeting online. From week 3 (February 10) pairs of students will make two presentations: one about assigned readings (2) and the other about an assigned project. Both will be in power-point form and will be recorded.

Asynchronous Lectures are prerecorded in power-point form and will be available for all sessions and will be released at least one week before the time of the particular class session. The time of each will be up to 60 minutes in duration and can be viewed at each student’s discretion. A glossary of names and terms will accompany each class period in bilingual translation where appropriate.

Tutorials will be conducted via zoom with each student pair covering the material to be presented during a particular week. These will be arranged by appointment with both Rowe and Guo at student’s discretion.

Class Requirements will include 1. Participation in each session, 2. Presentation in a particular session of assigned readings, nominally one per student, and 3. Presentation of an assigned project for a particular session by a student pair. Grading will be made on the basis of class presentations.

Preparation Time may vary, but will be about 6 hours per week.

Syllabus for the course is available on Canvas. It includes details about class presentations, reading lists for each class and other descriptive detail. 

Contacts with class instructors can be made via email. This includes appointments for tutorials and other meetings as required.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course and it is available to all students in the GSD, as a first priority and to others by permission of instructors.