Zhiyan Yang,May 17th

Title: “The Work Didn’t Exist Before its Publication” – Architectural Journals During the Transitional Period (1979 – 200X)

Abstract: This paper explores the history of Chinese architectural journals since 1980 as a key form of cultural production through which foreign information was channeled and local responses spawned in the architectural world. As the country saw a rapid unfolding of political liberalization and economic reform, it was uncertain how the same energy would pan out in the field of architecture and be directed towards envisioning and catalyzing a nationwide modernization. Focusing mainly on World Architecture 世界建筑and Time+Architecture 时代建筑 from 1980 to early 2000s, I argue that the development of a new, post-socialist architecture cannot be fully understood without an investigation of its relationship with the printed media first. In numerous cases, ideas were first tested out and sharpened in these journals years before they were materialized in the building form. The emergence of these new journals not only accelerated the search for architecture’s autonomy in the post-socialist China by allowing new conversations to grow without the previously prevalent Mao-ist ideology and rhetoric, but also provided a “contact zone” for Chinese intellectuals and architects to encounter, debate, digest, and at times misappropriate the changing cultural landscape shaped by the increasingly globalizing architectural community beyond China. By foregrounding issues around translation, criticism, self-censorship, and the changing operation and strategies of the media itself and reflecting on topics such as early reception of I.M.Pei, a debate between modernism and postmodern architecture, and a reconsideration of the relationship between architecture and art, I hope this paper can shed new light on the conflicting value systems and diversity of cultural responses that were at play in the transitional era.

Cover of World Architecture, 1981, vol.2, no.2. Featuring the interior of I.M.Pei’s East Building, National Gallery of Art (1978) with Alexander Calder’s Untitled (1976)

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Dongshan Zhang at dongshan@uchicago.edu

Best wishes,



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