‘Global modernity’ in China and France: Flattening boundaries between Foreign Brandscapes & Regional Urban Heritage


This paper studies transnational architecture and ‘global modernity’ through the reading of two photographs of foreign, iconic buildings in China and France. The first photograph by Hufton + Crow (2012) is of the Galaxy SOHO in Beijing by the Iraqi-born, British architect, Zaha Hadid Architect (ZHA) in collaboration with the state-ownedChineseBIAD(BeijingInstituteofArchitectureandDesign).Thelandmark, futurist ZHA building looks to have gobbled up the local urban heritage around it. The second photograph by Marc Petitjean taken in 1975 is of the Pompidou Centre in Paris under-construction and was designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano with Gianfranco Franchini. In front of the Pompidou Centre is Gordon Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect (1975) contained within a row of soon-to-be-demolished 17th century townhouses. Both the Galaxy SOHO and the Centre Pompidou are examples of transnational architecture where foreign architects crossing new global market frontiers, design landmark buildings at the expense of local heritage. They show how the rise in image culture tied to capitalism–through global branding and brand scapes – and promoted by ‘governmentality’ nurtures a culture of producing and consuming foreign architecture to redefine the image of nation state. The paper discusses how globalisation ‘flattens’ regionalism for modernisation. Foreign architects working on transnational architecture and their clients have an ethical responsibility to resist ‘cultural [architectural] imperialism’ (including the visual allure of the West as the alpha culture) and should instead engage deeply with regional and domestic urban values, typologies, scales and traditions to be critical of global capitalism.

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