Mountain Waters: Using Chinese Landscape Thought As a Frame for Architectural Practice in China


Working on many scales and types of projects in China at times of rapid change, the writer is founder of his own architectural practice Priestman Architects now based in Chongqing and is a PhD candidate at London’s University of Westminster. Environmental, socio-economic and spatial problems persist and metamorphose; the phenomenon of the burgeoning and dominant human habitat of the city is also faced with rapid change from new forms of occupation and technologies. Promoting hopeful visions of the unruly city and its interrelated fringes is a pressing need. This paper proposes an outline theoretical framework using ideas of cultural landscape in China to better frame and locate architectural work. The paper starts with Living off Landscape by Francois Jullien which discusses the potency of Chinese ideas of landscape against the limitations of European landscape thought and includes a discussion of photography as the primary media beyond painting that is extending ideas of landscape. The paper considers the use of the path in classical Chinese landscape painting as a conceptual, cultural and physical thread linking the non-urban to the urban. There, the building - heroic object or urban component - can both accommodate exterior contexts and combine resonant interiorities to constitute a fertile field where social and private domains touch.

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