According to RELATIONSHIPSPLUS.COM, Chinese architecture in the last two decades has gone through a period of radical change. Despite the laborious search for a modern ‘national’ style engaged Chinese architects before, during and after the Maoist period and despite the emergence of some great figures of designers since the Republican period, Chinese architecture was substantially excluded for a long time. by Western criticism and debate on modern architecture even when the discussion of ‘critical regionalism’ began. China, as a territory of advanced architectural experimentation, began to seriously attract international interest only at the beginning of the third millennium, at the height of the political-economic process that began in 1978 with the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. The tasks of architecture in China were and are immense.
Before the end of the last century, between the reforms in favor of the city and architecture, an individual professional registration system for architects was promulgated (1994-95) which allowed the current coexistence between traditional (state-owned or mixed) and private professional firms. It was an indispensable step towards the modern redefinition of the profession of the architect which proceeded in parallel with the emergence, since the early nineties, of a new bourgeois and entrepreneurial class. This spurred the emergence of independent Chinese architects, some of whom soon achieved a high degree of international esteem. Among the pioneers of this season are Yung Ho Chang and Lija Lu (Atelier Feichang Jianzhu), Liu Jiakun (Jiakun architects), Wang Shu (Amateur architecture studio) and Zhang Lei (Aterlier Zhang Lei), engaged with their own architecture in an attempt to express the critical and social impact of a new radically Chinese architecture, radically modern, refined and cultured. At the same time, the activities of the state-based design institutes (BIAD, Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, SIADR, Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design & Research, to name a few), while universities have debuted on the professional market in the form of professional design agencies (Tsinghua of Beijing, Tongji of Shanghai, Zheijiang University, University of Nanjing, to include only the major ones).
2001 was a significant date for Chinese architecture: in December China entered the WTO (World Trade Organization) thus officially becoming an economic and political entity capable of influencing the global market; a few months earlier the Games of the XXIX Olympiad of 2008 had already been assigned to Beijing (v.). Thus began a phase of great media exposure of the China which has chosen to consider the renewed architecture of its cities as one of the most effective means of propaganda to spread the image of its national ambition. Starting from the opportunity of the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai Expo, a process of long-term investments in architecture has begun. In the preparatory phase immediately preceding the Olympics and the Expo, the mobile constellation of great international architects focused in particular on Beijing, on Shanghai (v. China Central TeleVision, 2003-08; Shenzhen stock exchange, 2013), Steven Holl (Beijing, Linked hybrid, 2003-09; Nanjing Si Fang art museum, 2011-13; Shenzhen Vanke center, 2006-09), Zaha Hadid (Beijing, Galaxy Soho, 2009-12; Guang zhou opera house, 2006-10), David Chipperfield (Hang zhou, Liangzhu culture museum, 2003-07), Morphosis (Shanghai giant campus, 2006-10), Coophimmelb (l) au (Dalian international conference center, 2008-12).
Puijiang Brilliance Twin Tower
The presence of many of the most famous contemporary architects of the West has strongly stimulated the emergence of a large number of young Chinese personalities still in the process of maturing, among which, however, some new leaders have already distinguished, such as Ma Yansong (MAD architects), particularly projected towards the digital figurative elaboration of architecture. Landscape architecture, which has its roots in the traditional high culture of China and whose wisdom was preserved for a long time only in the schools by the state forestry organization, is today once again at the center of attention of the university institutions that are awarded, inter alia, the 2008 Beijing Olympic City Grand Landscape Project and many other large-scale landscape planning projects, often with the participation of specialized western agencies. The collaboration with the great international architects and even their presence, in this phase, are still considered essential leaven for the growth and success of the new Chinese architects and for the education of the taste of the powerful city administrations; at times it has generated unprecedented settlement models, rare masterpieces, such as the extremely elegant satellite city Pujiang on the island of Pudong, Shanghai, designed by Gregotti Associates international. The dialectical relationship between the fundamental concepts of “essence” (ti) and “form” (yong), that is, between the stable and profound meanings of ancestral culture and the perennial experimental research of architecture, so well investigated in the essay by Peter Rowe and Seng Kuan (2002), has propitiated some luminous syntheses in works by the best Chinese architects, such as those by Wang Shu, winner of the Pritzker prize in 2012; syntheses that reaffirm the renewed continuity with the most heroic generation of China’s first modern architects, the masters Liang Sicheng (1901-1972), Yang Tingbao (1901-1982) and Wu Liangyong (b. 1922).