To achieve the unachievable: Beijing's Chang'an Avenue and Chinese architectural modernization during the PRC era
This dissertation explores the modernization project in Chinese architecture during the PRC Era (1949-present) through the changes of Chang'an Avenue in Beijing. I will first trace the development of Chang'an Avenue in the changing urban context from the late Qing dynasty to the end of twentieth century. Then, by analyzing changes in architectural styles, shifts of art ideology, approaches in organized artistic creation, interaction between theoretical discussion and design practice, mechanism of political interference, and impact of globalization, I explore the modernization process of Chinese architecture during the second half the twentieth century. My argument is that the modernization project in Chinese architecture was framed in a way that it could never be fully achieved. In the discourse of modern Chinese architecture, the very definition of "modernity" was constantly changing, following the most updated version in contemporary world architecture. Each period claimed to "roughly complete" Chang'an Avenue according to its own modernization ideal. Each "completion" from a specific period had been creating new "gaps," physically as well as symbolically, for future "completions" to fill. Chang'an Avenue, as the most significant urban thoroughfare of 20th-century China and the new east-west axis of the Chinese capital, became a symbol of this unachievable modernization project.Though mainly focusing on the second half of the twentieth century, this dissertation also provides detailed analysis of Chang'an Avenue during the Imperial Time (before 1912) and the ROC Era (1912-1949), emphasizes the interaction between past and present, and highlights the critical role history and tradition played in the discourse of modern Chinese architecture.
- Fine arts