Made for China: Localizations of International Architecture in China, 2001-2018


To date, the story of architectural production in 21st century China has focused on institutions and actors in an ever-globalizing system of practice [1–4]. This worthy approach nevertheless obscures opposite yet equally significant trends, namely the localization of architectural products. Architectural practices are indeed becoming moreglobal,andyettheirworkis—withnotableexceptions—morefrequentlyconvicted of a necessity for localization, such that two buildings designed by an American firm, one in California and the other in Shanghai, should not be indistinguishable from each other. Thus, a more complete telling of this story demands an investigation of how the local and the national are represented materially in work that is, structurally, international. Through a close reading of several iconic buildings in China designed by international architects, this contribution proposes a framework for categorizing localization strategies. In addition, it investigates the origins of the localization imperative both in general and specific to China. These findings amplify architecture’s cross-cultural vocabulary and improve the ability of architectural practices to consider the cultural sited-ness of their work not only in China but around the world.

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