Beijing (1950s-1960s) / How the Communist China perceived ‘new architecture’ at then

Beijing (1950s-1960s) / How the Communist China perceived ‘new architecture’ at then
The Minizu Hotel fits the fundamental principals of the Party © 2011 Phnix
The Minizu Hotel fits the fundamental principals of the Party © 2011 Phnix
The Minizu Hotel fitted the what the Party wanted © 2011 Phnix

When the Communist Party freshly settled down in Beijing in 1949 they considered old buildings to be the icon of previous corrupted society, and that they indicated the hierarchy and different classes’ ideological demands during the Qing dynasty. Thus the first mission they had in mind was to put up a new era, by establishing new icons through architecture. Thus they were in a rush to torn down the old city walls and old buildings to mark their position in history.

However the way they used was importing–importing architects and city planners from the western world, especially from the USSR, and let them to build their iconic structures through their methods to swap the old Beijing with the new Beijing. The Party perceived architecture as a thing to show off to its people–not by its outlook, but by its establishment and its size, other things did not matter. These Soviet-style architectures were standing on Beijing’s land for telling people the coming of a new era, just that. It didn’t serve other purposes because, if we consider utility–the buildings were too large to have wasted electricity and space; if we consider beauty–the buildings weren’t particularly special except for its hugeness; if we consider economy–it was definitely not cheap to build one; if we consider culture–they had nothing in accordance with the traditional Chinese architecture style that we have known.

The Party thought they had put forward functionism because they simply regarded non-deco flat roofs and straight walls were absolute functionism. They refused any other format of buildings–both Chinese or those from capitalist countries due to political reasons. They criticised Liang Sicheng for putting too many Chinese elements onto his designs but they did not on the other hand bother to fix a national standard of architecture of their own.

With little preservation work being done, and new architectures being too Soviet the disappearance of the old Beijing is explained.

1 Comment on “Beijing (1950s-1960s) / How the Communist China perceived ‘new architecture’ at then

  1. It was a paradox that the people in that period did not tear down the most symbolic building in Beijing, the Forbidden City. In fact it was the location where Mao Zedong delivered his victory speech, at the symbol of old China. The headquarters of the Government is also located in an imperial garden right next to it. It seemed impossible to wipe out everything of the old Beijing, demolition of the Forbidden City and replacing it with a Soviet Style Headquarters seemed the “logical” thing to do for the Communist Chinese at that period to mark the downfall of the Old China. Thankfully it did not happen.

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