Cole RoskamJul 26, 2022
Architecture in the People's Republic of China, 1970-1992
Yale University Press 2021
China’s urban landscapes are full of radically different architectural styles which memorialise different eras in the country’s political past, from the remains of imperial palaces or city walls, to Republican-era shophouses, early-PRC medium-rise apartments, and soaring glass buildings of twenty-first-century vintage. But lodged – both temporally and physically – between these latter two are constructions from a time that is only now beginning to receive more attention, namely the early reform period of the 1970s-90s.
This is exactly the timespan covered in Cole Roskam’s excellent new book Designing Reform: Architecture in the People's Republic of China, 1970-1992 (Yale UP, 2021) which shows that architecture had a key place in the emerging political, social and cultural developments of China’s pivotal post-Mao years. Examining stylistic, institutional, sociological and aesthetic aspects to Chinese architecture and its cross-border entanglements, this is a book which – as we transition deeper into Xi Jinping’s ‘new era’ – has much to say about an intriguing and occluded period of recent history which is not just Chinese but truly global.
Ed Pulford is an Anthropologist and Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and indigeneity in northeast Asia.