Designing Reform


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Architecture in the People’s Republic of China, 1970–1992

Cole Roskam

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Investigating the rich architecture of post-Mao China and its broad cultural impact

In the years following China’s Cultural Revolution, architecture played an active role in the country’s reintegration into the global economy and capitalist world. Looking at the ways in which political and social reform transformed Chinese architecture and how, in turn, architecture gave structure to the reforms, Cole Roskam underlines architecture’s unique ability to shape space as well as behavior. Roskam traces how foreign influences like postmodernism began to permeate Chinese architectural discourse in the 1970s and 1980s and how figures such as Kevin Lynch, I. M. Pei, and John Portman became key forces in the introduction of Western educational ideologies and new modes of production. Offering important insights into architecture’s relationship to the politics, economics, and diplomacy of post-Mao China, this unprecedented interdisciplinary study examines architecture’s multivalent status as an art, science, and physical manifestation of cultural identity.

Cole Roskam is associate professor of architectural history in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong.

"Impeccably researched, Designing Reform is a groundbreaking study of architecture in contemporary China that provides firm grounds for further scholarship."—Vladimir Kulic, author of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980

"Cole Roskam's study offers a window into an important transitional period in both Chinese architecture and history, convincingly tying architectural production to shifts and subtleties of policy."—Alan Plattus, Yale University

“In this remarkable volume, Cole Roskam illuminates the role architecture and building played in the crucial two decades just before, and just after, China’s turn toward reform and opening. Roskam provides a compelling history-based argument about architecture and social change, as well as the depth and context that allow us to look at buildings we have long taken for granted and see them with a fresh eye.”—Barry Naughton, University of California, San Diego

“Roskam combines an architectural historian’s attention to detail with a sinologist’s political acumen to give us a lucid and fascinating backstory of China’s consequential twenty-first century return to the world stage.”—Shiqiao Li, University of Virginia

Winner of a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
ISBN: 9780300235951
Publication Date: November 30, 2021
296 pages, 7 x 10
86 b/w illus.