Rem Koolhaas's CCTV headquarters in Beijing. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

This new book helps English-speaking travelers and architecture enthusiasts find the projects that best exemplify the country’s post-Mao landscape.

Between 2011 and 2013, China used more cement than the United States did during the entire 20th century. It’s a mind-blowing statistic that only begins to put into perspective just how much the country has grown since its post-Mao economic reforms. Modern skylines have sprouted in old cities, and new cities have been built from scratch. With all these changes, visitors—and locals—could use an architecture guidebook to help get the lay of the land.

With a focus on the country’s best examples of state-supported growth, Architectural Guide: China by Evan Chakroff, Addison Godel, and Jacqueline Gargus takes readers on a 388-page building tour divided into 11 cities, each one with a helpful introduction and summaries of noteworthy buildings.

(DOM Publishers)

Photos and blurbs for each project are accompanied by GPS coordinates as well as a QR code that takes you to a map to use during your travels. It’s still a rewarding read for architecture enthusiasts at home with its thoughtful essays on the art, politics, and commerce behind China’s history and current building culture.

While reforms have lifted half a billion people out of poverty around the country since 1978, the authoritarian government still maintains an atrocious human rights record, creating a moral conflict that some international architects grapple with before before accepting projects in China. Many have chosen to see their work (at least publicly) as an opportunity to push the country towards becoming a freer society through ambitious design—a concept perhaps best exemplified by CCTV’s new headquarters in Beijing.

Referred to by some locals the “Big Shorts” thanks to its shape, the project allowed OMA’s founder Rem Koolhaas to pursue his long publicized dream of creating a new type of skyscraper. Completed in 2012, its two towers are anchored by a common base and a 245-foot cantilever, making it an unmistakable landmark in the capital city and a design that will likely endure as a symbol of early-21st century China.

(DOM Publishers)

A more exciting chapter of architecture is emerging as the country begins to establish its own crop of native firms. Highlighted in the guide’s essay on modernity, public spaces by Ai Weiwei and buildings by Pei Zhu and Liu Jiakun may not receive a lot of western press, but they’re some of the boldest and most intelligent additions to urban China of late. Architectural Guide: China will surely need an update sooner rather than later.

Architectural Guide: China, $59.95 at DOM Publishers

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. Equity

    Housing Can’t Be Both Affordable and a Good Investment

    The two pillars of American housing policy are fundamentally at odds.

  3. A photo of protesters carrying anti-Amazon posters during a rally and press conference in NYC.
    Amazon HQ2

    Amazon’s HQ2 Decision Was Always About Transit

    In the end, New York’s MTA and D.C.’s Metro were the only transportation networks capable of handling such an influx of new residents. But both cities will have some work to do.

  4. A photo of a mural in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Life

    Stop Complaining About Your Rent and Move to Tulsa, Suggests Tulsa

    In an effort to beef up the city’s tech workforce, the George Kaiser Family Foundation is offering $10,000, free rent, and other perks to remote workers who move to Tulsa for a year.

  5. a photo of a house demolition in Detroit
    Design

    Appetite for Deconstruction

    To battle blight, builders must imagine at the beginning of a structure’s life what will happen at the end of it.