Leading up to the Dissertation
An interest in regionalism and its architecture - especially Chinese architecture, had been present since the start of my architectural education. Utilising the compulsory essay assignment each year in my undergraduate degree, this topic had been delved deeper into.
My aspiration of ultimately designing architecture that perfectly merges traditional Chinese and modernist elements has led me to investigate how Japanese architects did it, first Tange Kenzo (2016), then Kengo Kuma (2017) and finally the larger picture of the whole development (2018). This aided me a lot and had prepared me for my dissertation to critically analyse the regionalism of modernist Chinese architecture (2021).
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Where modernism is evolved from the West, it was introduced to the East. This introduction in the 20th century marked the start of rapid urbanisation in a lot of Asian cities, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, building modernist skyscrapers one after another. Its steamrolling development left little to no room for reflection on how its culture, especially cultural elements of Chinese philosophy (cultural ideas) and traditional Chinese architecture (cultural forms) should be incorporated into these new buildings. The lack of research and discussion around the topic led to a lot attempts that failed miserably or being too far-fetched in its claims. This study aims to investigate the attempts that have been done and compare them to people’s perception towards these buildings to see elements translated, what is accepted and future trends.
Based on reviews of different literature that analyse the buildings that translated these cultural elements, an online questionnaire survey was distributed to ethnic Chinese people living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China or Malaysia. The analysis of the research showed the abstraction of cultural forms was associated to higher ratings by participants and buildings that translated cultural ideas were more popular and received better comments than buildings that translated cultural forms.
First, the results suggested that the direction towards designing contemporary Chinese architecture should be to avoid a direct translation of cultural forms and incorporate more abstracted designs of these elements. It also indicated that the better the building sits in its surrounding, the better it is perceived and thus rated. On this basis, a recommendation may be suggested that when translating Chinese cultural elements, cultural forms are perceived better when abstracted and the cultural idea of “leaving the negative” would be a coming trend to pay attention to.
This essay serve as a starting point to generate more discussion and research around this topic in assisting contemporary architecture that better reflects the 5000 years of Chinese history and culture.
Keywords: Traditional Chinese architecture, Critical Regionalism, Contemporary Chinese Architecture, Translation of Cultural elements
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