Brutalism, with Chinese Characteristics

HK - Central Mid Levels Escalators (Again) (4)

Honest revelation of tectonics and materiality. The social potential of architectural form. As the world enters an era of mass-urbanization, the primary ambitions of the Brutalist project are more relevant now than ever.

While only architects and masochists could love Brutalism’s eponymous concrete (and let’s see that Venn diagram!), the spatial and social ambitions of the Brutalist movement remain relevant as the world enters an era of mass-urbanization, the first waves of which are most acutely felt in Asia’s megacities. Continue reading

Guangzhou: Diverse-City


[Guangdong Museum, Rocco Yim]

[In December, I helped lead a tour of Architecture students through eastern China. The following posts will be my brief impressions of the cities we visited. Today: Guangzhou.]

Shamian Island

Guangzhou, perhaps more than any other city, represents the diversity of urban form present in China’s post-colonial cities. From the well-preserved Old Town, the colonial Shamian Island, to the “hanging gardens” of Guangzhou’s elevated highways (which soften the brutal infrastructure of the city, and provide shade for informal businesses below) and the lifeless modernism of Futian, Guangzhou is nothing if not a collection of diverse urban ideas, a kind of living museum of urbanism.

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Miracle City

[In December, I helped lead a tour of Architecture students through eastern China. The following few posts will be my brief impressions of the cities we visited. Today: Shenzhen.]

Shenzhen’s short history is well known: In the accepted mythology, China’s Economic Miracle began here, with the establishment of the Special Economic Zone, that grand urban experiment with market capitalism. This auspicious tabula rasa – not even labeled on maps prior to the 1980s – was surely selected as much for its lack of historical baggage as for as its adjacency to booming Hong Kong. What better place to demonstrate the potential of the new China, free, finally, from imperialist aggressors, war, and the insanity of the Mao era? With no dynastic, imperial, republican, or communist fabric, Shenzhen was essentially a blank slate, free to be shaped into a modern – and specifically Chinese – city.

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