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  • Towards a new normal: the changing relationship between foreign and Chinese architects in contemporary China

Zhang, John, 2018, Thesis, Towards a new normal: the changing relationship between foreign and Chinese architects in contemporary China PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The period since the implementation of ‘Reform and Opening Up’ in 1978 constitutes the longest continuous engagement between foreign and Chinese architects since the founding of the modern architecture profession in China at the beginning of the 20th century.
This thesis examines the relationships between foreign and Chinese architects in China, through an evaluation of the historic evolution of these relationships, an assessment of the contemporary challenges facing these relationships, and a speculation on the nature of these relationships in the
future.
In addressing this subject area, the thesis relies on a qualitative and heuristic research methodology framed within the context of Grounded Theory, drawing from over sixty first-hand interviews with both foreign architects, Chinese architects, architectural educators, architectural
students, developer clients, and government planners in eight different Chinese cities, as well as case studies of seven completed architectural projects in China.
The thesis challenges the common perception that the nature of engagement between foreign and Chinese architects in the post-Mao era is historically unique. Despite distinctively different political, economic,
cultural, and social contexts, foreign architects have maintained a persistent presence in China since the beginning of the 20th century. As such, the
current and future role of foreign architects in China cannot be discussed in isolation, but viewed as part of a historical relationship which continues to
this day, and may continue in the future.
The thesis also argues that there is a cyclical pattern of historic interaction between foreign and Chinese architects, in which each period of engagement begins with foreign architects playing an instigative and catalytic role in the evolution of the profession and the discourse, before
their influence wanes as it becomes incompatible with shifting political, economic, and cultural conditions.
The thesis contends that we are witnessing the end of another such cycle of engagement between foreign and Chinese architects, made evident by the emergence of a series of existential challenges facing foreign architects in
China. The uninterrupted period of sustained engagement between foreign and Chinese architects in the post-Mao era has led to the distortion, erosion, and fragmentation of the foreign architects role, and the weakening of their position against their Chinese peers.
As such, the thesis proposes that an emerging professional paradigm under the so-called ‘New Normal’ represents a significant break from past cycles, in which the future of foreign architects in China will be predicated on the
value of their offer within a more equal and collaborative professional environment built on Chinese terms and led by Chinese voices.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
School or Centre: School of Architecture
Funders: AEDAS
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2018 11:25
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2018 11:25
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3510

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