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September 15, 2018

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Exhibit reveals rise of Chinese architecture

AN exhibition showcasing the rise of Chinese architecture is underway at the Power Station of Art.

“The Rise of Modernity: The First Generation of Chinese Architects from the University of Pennsylvania” revisits the historical prosperity of Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century after the city opened up trade to foreign businesses. The exhibit reveals the development and architectural practices of first-generation Chinese architects returning to China during the 1920s-30s.

It was during this time that architecture was first introduced to the Chinese as a subject. A significant spurt of industrialization and urbanization triggered the dual need of architecture’s practicality and aesthetics.

Several forward-thinking foreign architects came to the city, such as Hungarian-Slovak architect Laszlo Hudec and French architect Alexandre Leonard, and they had a profound influence on the development of Shanghai.

Meanwhile, China’s “first-generation architects” who studied at University of Pennsylvania returned, infusing fresh blood into their profession and become the backbone of modern architectural design and urban construction. Amongst them were Zhu Bin, Fan Wenzhao, Zhao Shen, Yang Tingbao, Chen Zhi, Liang Sicheng, Lin Huiyin, and Tong Jun.

Professor Tong Ming, grandson of Tong Jun, serves as the chief curator of the exhibition. He had the idea of curating an exhibition about Chinese architects after he visited the Pennsylvania University archive museum in 2015 and found a small wooden box of archives and academic transcripts of over 20 Chinese students who studied there nearly 100 years ago.

“The photos showed how professors taught classes and how students drew their designs in the 1920s-30s,” Tong says. “I was astonished to see huge watercolor paintings of former students. It was also fun to see their graduation costume prom, which had an exotic theme every year, like Egypt or the Orient. The photos vividly revealed an open, optimistic atmosphere of the campus.”

The exhibition is divided into two chapters. It begins with the Beaux-Arts teaching method at University of Pennsylvania. The first chapter concentrates on the overseas experience and personal achievements of the first-generation architects after returning to China, in the fields of educational system, academic journals, and urban planning.

The second chapter follows each single-case study to analyze the design practices of modern Chinese architecture, such as the Shanghai Theater, the Majestic Theater, the Dai Sun Company and the Georgia Apartments.

Two newly produced short documentaries on the reflection of “Thoughts and Legacies” of the first-generation architects will also be screened, which allows the audience to explore the city’s urban history and its architecture through the span of time.

Date: Through October 14 (closed on Mondays), 11am-7pm

Venue: Power Station of Art

Address: 200 Huayuangang Rd


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