Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 31: Between contemporary and traditional: the ongoing search for a Chinese architectural identity
Ever since wide-ranging political and economic reforms began in the 1980s, China has invested great effort in its continuing modernization. Rapid development and urbanization have affected society on almost every level and have shaped recent architectural history. In contemporary China, architecture and urbanization embody and display collective achievements on China’s road to becoming a modernized nation. The allure of modernization is empowering for those who are part of it; newer districts in Chinese cities proudly display the names of major urban thoroughfares such as ‘Modern Avenue’ and major commercial landmarks like ‘Contemporary Plaza’. Modernization has however also brought with it the destruction of centuries-old material and immaterial traditions, as contemporary urban landscapes throughout China make glaringly obvious (Figure 31.1). Although much of China’s architectural development over the past three decades has centred on modernizing through opening up to and importing Western ideas, a parallel discourse addresses the continuation or reinvention of tradition.
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