Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The country's building boom has given rise to a look that's fresh but also uniquely Chinese.
What should China look like? That's a question architects all over the country are grappling with.
As China expands rapidly, architects struggle to maintain a sense of history and authenticity in their designs. These concerns are amplified not only by the scale and banality of so many new skyscrapers and mega-projects, but also by the bizarre, western-themed neighborhoods that have popped up around the country.
Shanghai architects Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu recently organized a series of discussions about the need for a new design manifesto for China. The symposium took place inside a gallery they designed, a former colonial-era police station in Shanghai. “A lot of architects in the U.S. are lost, but there are no projects," Hu said at the event. "Here, we are lost and we are building cities.”
Still, there's some sense that a new Chinese architectural identity is emerging. Architect Wang Hui of Urbanus described it this way to World Architecture News earlier this year:
Young Chinese architects are quietly altering other sections of the built landscape; not with competitively tall towers, but with sensitivity, intellectual rigor and great subtlety.
Below, some Chinese buildings that strive for a contemporary look that authentic national identity through its buildings: