III. Opinions of the Chinese Architects Ha Xiongwen 哈雄文

In the twentieth century, China welcomed the first generation of architects. They received education at the University of Pennsylvania and brought the western theory back to China. Among this group of students, Ha Xiongwen 哈雄文 is the one who participated in the drafting of the Ten-Year Plan as an architect as well as a governmental officer. ( the head of Construction and Planning Agency, MOI). His opinion, on the one hand, reflects the advanced urban planning ideas; and on the other hand, expresses a comprehensive outlook. This part will introduce an articles Ha had published in Monography on Public Construction 公共工程專刊 and Reviews on Urban Construction市政評論. At the very beginning, Ha cited an instruction from the Chairman: The first thing before establishing a nation is to ensure the citizen’s living quality 建國之首要在於民生. After this quotation, Ha argued that the city is created by people and connects to the people.

“都市是人民聚居的集體,為人民生活之所需,社會生存之所賴,國民生計之所關。”

Urban planning should always be based on the goal that is providing people with an environment where they can live and work with pleasure. Considering the situation of China, urban planning should following the three steps, that is, renovating and expanding the old downtown as well as establishing the new towns, with the principle of utility實用, beauty美觀 and economy經濟. The three principle Ha mentioned here is quite similar to the principles Vitruvius discussed in his book Treatise on Architecture. Ha further elaborated these three principles. Firstly, he put forwards the concept of “centripetal force” and “centrifugal force”. In the old days, people gathered within a defending wall to prevent them from attacks. In nowadays, people move to the city center looking for work opportunities. Those are the centripetal forces of the formation of the city. On the contrary, people would also leave the city looking for the extra plowland in the ancient time and will move to the satellite towns in order to reduce the population pressure in the present. Those are the centrifugal forces. Both forces promote the expansion of the city.

“都市的形成,是由於人口集中,一個地區,因為地理交通或政治經濟的條件,就能陸續地吸收人口,由鄉鎮而城市,由城市而都市,逐漸地發展,不過發展的趨勢,又有向心和離心兩種現象。”

The city is always in a dynamic status. Thus the city planning should always be flexible so that it can aid the development of the city. This is what Ha meant by “Utility.” This point echoes with Norman’s ideas wrote in the preface of the Ten-Year Plan. Secondly, he suggests that beauty should be ” harmonized” with the local feature. It means that the beauty of a city should be based on geography and history rather than directly copy the pattern from others. Creating, Controlling and Eliminating are the three main approaches to achieve “Beauty.” Finally, Ha added that the economy is not “saving money.” It is a goal of utilizing the money.

In this journal article, we can recognize those classical western theories and, in the meanwhile, Ha’s own reflection on the urban planning of China. There is a lot of consistency with other scholars’ statements as well as the Ten-Year Plan.

 

哈雄文, “新中国都市计划的原则,” 市政评论 9, no. 1 (1947): 2-3.

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3 Comments on “III. Opinions of the Chinese Architects Ha Xiongwen 哈雄文

  1. I learned a lot by reading your posts! You show a very comprehensive study by bring up both the theoretical views and the actual implementation of plan in Chongqing. By comparing these two, it helps to understand the planning scheme in a larger scale. The emphasis of the public construction and the analysis fully explain the the three theories that you raised up. I can see the important role of the transportation system played and how it facilitates the city in different aspects to show its utility; principle of beauty is expressed by the respect and careful consideration of local topography; economy can also be seen through the use of resources in the construction process.

    I would like to ask what is the stance the decision-maker of Chongqing took on the similar western theories you have identified through the study? Any transitions made according to the local social context?

  2. It is very inspiring to read your post about the combined ideas of “utility, beauty, and economy”. Trying to borrow the ideas from the famous historian Vitruvius, the principles suited well in the Chinese context and specifically in Chongqing. The centrifugal forces it brings reunite the city which push it forward to a more developed and giant modern city. Besides, the argument about geography and history could encompass the inner beauty of a city is especially significant to Chongqing based on the mountainous topography.

  3. The architect Ha XiongWen has a similar education background to Liang Sicheng who was also a prominent figure during the 1950s when Beijing was transitioning to a new regime. Both architects received education from University of Pennsylvania which adapt a Beaux-art teaching method where they taught aesthetic success of a building was based on proportion, rhythm, hierarchy and a high refined understanding of historical languages of European buildings. It is sure interesting when you mentioned the three main principles that Ha mentioned when it comes to renovating and establishing new or old towns was based on “utility, beauty and economy” His views are very similar to Liang Sicheng where Liang Cheng also put great emphasis on the facade designs and how to integrate ancient Chinese architectural characteristics into modern buildings in reaction to the nation’s geography and what is best suited for them. With this being said I’m curious to know how Ha’s education impact on his architectural thinking and his approach to architecture upon his return to China, were there any oppositions to his Western thinking ?

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