China Architecture in the 1970’s and 1980’s

By | January 10, 2022

The seventies saw the return to the values ​​of traditional architecture, with the detachment from the typology of austere buildings echoing a western style, albeit stripped of any decoration. These buildings were highly criticized, both by the public and by the majority of Chinese architects, for their anonymity and monotony.

New ways were therefore sought to create an architectural language that could be identified with individual places and with their historical traditions: in essence, a new expressive consciousness enters the language of contemporary Chinese architecture.

According to THEMOTORCYCLERS.COM, the first example of this new current dates back to 1964: it is the Kuangquan Hotel by architect Mo Bozhi, in Guangzhou (of the Guangzhou Institute of Architectural Design, of which Mo Bozhi was the head) which marks the first return to tradition from 1949 onwards., and in which all the characteristics of Chinese vernacular architecture are found: courtyards, lakes, bridges, interpenetration between internal and external spaces.

In the Eastern Hotel (1973) and in the Bayun Hotel (1976), designed by the Guangzhou Municipal Planning Bureau and the Guangzhou Institute of Architectural Design (both in Guangzhou) respectively, we can see the same attempts at integration between landscapes and buildings.

Pan Zhengfan’s studies (1982) for the historic center of the old city of Huaian, and those for the conservation and restoration of urban centers, as well as for the settlement of new buildings in ancient environments by Zhu Zinan and Qu Zhenliang (1984), are witnesses of this current of research for a new language based on tradition. Architecture and rural planning are also affected by this landscape and environmental research inspired by local vernacular (new experimental village of Shexian, 1983; rural houses of Zong Jinguang).

Similarly, residential architecture in large cities, based on a more human scale, is being revised (residential houses in Shanghai, 1987, by Zhen Suibui; in Beijing, by Zhu Zinan, 1981, and Zong Jinguan, 1984).

Undoubtedly the best known of the architects who advocate an authentic Chinese figurative language is the Chinese-American architect IM Pei, who designed the Xiangshan Hotel in Beijing in the early 1980s. This work reflects his interest in the traditional values ​​of Chinese architecture, as can be seen in the spatial grouping of gardens and courtyards, as well as in the decorative details of the facades that evoke characteristic signs of the Tang era.

From the same words of IM Pei (in Architects Journal of Peking but we cannot do the same things, since they are in contradiction with contemporary life, the present economy, the socio-political reality. Copying blindly is a blunder, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can’t learn. Nature, like that of Xianshan, is so beautiful, with different sceneries throughout the year. Architecture cannot compete with nature, but it can enhance the beauty of nature. The Chinese have always looked at nature differently from that of other peoples, such as the French or English landscape painters. The Chinese prefer more natural and picturesque scenery. Perhaps this has to do with the modest character of the Chinese people. The Chinese garden is unique, with its closed and open spaces that intertwine, as if one wanted to enclose the cosmos in a garden. L’ the use of stones from Lake Taihu, in the South, and that of granite, in the North, is typical of our world. The synthesis between landscape and architecture will guide us towards new ideas. This must be encouraged and promoted. ”

In parallel to this current of works influenced by tradition and the search for environmental values, we must remember the large-scale civil construction interventions, with a decidedly Western imprint, such as the Lanzhou railway station (1978), the airport buildings of Hangzhou (1971) and Urumqi (1973), designed respectively by the Zheijiang Provincial Institute of Architectural Design and by the Design Office of the Building Department Xinjiang, and again the Wutaishan Gymnasium in Nanjing (1975), of the Nanjing Institute of Technology, and finally the Memorial Hall of Mao Zedong (the last of the grand buildings of Tian An Men Square) from 1977, of the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, the Xinjiang People’s Congress building in Urumqi, of Sun Guo Cheng (1984), Emergency Medical Care Center (1986), in Beijing,by Zhou Lida, the Globe Shopping Center (1986), in Benxei, by Tang Jishan, and others.

The contribution that foreign architects and firms have made to the development of contemporary Chinese architecture should be remembered. Among these are the Americans China Chen & Associates (San Francisco, USA) with the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing (1982), an example of a Sino-American collaboration, in post-modern idiom, with traditional and landscape details echoing the architecture of the South Yangtse. In addition, Becket International, USA, with the Great Wall Hotel in Beijing (1984), a 24-storey building, in the language of contemporary international architecture; and Palmer & Turner with the Jingling Hotel, Nanjing (1983), a 37-storey building, also marked by an international language, albeit tempered by the landscape and environmental element, South Yangtse style.

Also in hotel construction, which has had so much development over the last ten years, we must remember the work of Chinese architects, such as Mo Bozhi, Xian Gao yuan, and others, whose work is identified with that of the corporate architecture institutes. in which they operate, such as the China Institute of Architectural Design, with the Longbai Hotel in Shanghai (1982), the Guangzhou Municipal Planning Bureau, with the Bayoun, and the White Swan Hotel, in Guangzhou, in 1976 and 1983 respectively. finally mentioned the architecture and urban planning magazines such as The Architects (1979) and World Architecture (1980), which together with other minor university magazines, and those published by architecture companies, join the famous Architects Journal published in China since 1953, to form a cultural group intended to bridge the bridge between Chinese and Western cultures.

China Architecture in the 1970's and 1980's