Beijing (1950s-1960s) / Liang Sicheng’s struggles with the Communist China’s First Five-Year Plan
In 1953 the Communist Party launched First Five-Year Plan to promote economy construction through all aspects. Architecturally the Party set “utility, economy and, if possible, beauty” as their fundamental principles. In short, any building has to be useful yet economical and perhaps beautiful too. Utility and cost were the main aims. However these principles were not being too effective as the designers still wanted national style and reactionism, under the lead of Liang Sicheng, who promoted bald use of colours and vivid decorations, to merge Chinese elements in the buildings.
Most of the works have strong indication of formalism–the outward beauty of a building. There were large roofs, cornices, painted beams, etc in palatial scale and they costed a lot of money. The façade was not helping with the utility nor economy and went against the Party’s anti-formalism, anti-reactionism, and anti-waste. All critiques immediately went directly to Liang Sicheng, for he stressing too much on style that handicapped the national construction, and being anti-Party and anti-nation.
Liang later on admitted he had made mistakes and lead the designers to a road refraining from making mistakes by struggling to avoid styles, but box-like architectures. Because of anti-waste, they sacrifice beauty and utility for economy. Eventually these non useful ugly buildings became the real “waste”. The designers did not dare to think too much or talk too much but to just fulfil the being one of the Party’s duty. They didn’t bother to research or analyse and took everything as it was.