Good evening. I’m feeling a little bit of
personal panic right now. But it’s a wonderful moment to
see everybody here at Piper. My name is [? Su ?]
[? Chong ?] [INAUDIBLE]. I’m a Master’s in Architecture
student here at the GSD. And before introducing
our guest tonight, I would like to thank everyone
that makes this event happen– our dean, Mohsen Mostafavi,
Miss Chantelle [? Bakely, ?] from the events office,
Erica George from the Student Services, and also other student
helpers and staff as well as our beloved professor,
Michael Hays, who will be joining our student
respondents and our guest later after the lecture
for a brief discussion. I hope you guys can all stay
for the discussion as well. So it gives me great honor to
introduce our speaker tonight, Professor Kenneth Frampton. I actually encountered
Professor Frampton the same time I encountered architecture. I remember it was September
18th, 2010, exactly six years ago, when I was a first-year
student in undergraduate and just finished my first
pin-up in the architecture school. And then I was at Professor
Frampton’s lecture. So I was totally
innocent to architecture. I had no idea who
those architects are in your lecture at that time. But what left me
great impression was Professor Frampton’s
great enthusiasm and optimism towards architecture. And he is repeating word,
“critical” and “criticality.” His a strong belief in the
internal criticality as well as the external geography
of architecture still have profound
impacts on many of us. So I know many of
very know very well of Professor Frampton’s
scholarship and teaching career. I will skip that part. And I would invite
you to join me in welcoming Professor
Kenneth Frampton. [APPLAUSE] Good evening. Yes. You can hear me, I hope? Yes. I feel like I’m here under–
well, I’m quite sure about it that I’m here under
somewhat false pretenses because what do I
know, really, about recent Chinese architecture. And so I have a few
images that I will show. But before I do that, I want
to make one or two opening remarks. I’m sorry I’m so late because
of the weather in New York. Once it rains or something,
LaGuardia shuts down. So that’s unfortunate. But– yes, I was going
to say that I thought I should say something
about– well, I suppose, first of all, a bit
about just the merest reference to postmodernism and then
something about a few dates. I mean, there’s a famous book by
Jean Francois Lyotard of 1979, which is The
Postmodern Condition. And one year later, in
Venice, the Venice Biennale– the first, actually,
architectural Bienalle in Venice of 1980–
comes into being with two slogans, the
end of prohibition and the presence of the past. And in fact, I was asked to
be a so-called commissioner for that exhibition. And I went to one
preliminary meeting. And then I decided that
this was, well, very largely a manifestation of
kitsch, and I wasn’t going to participate anymore. And so I resigned. And of course, that didn’t
please Robert Stern, who had invited me to participate. And Robert Stern–
and this is all a very long time
ago– at that date, was very influential in
one school of architecture in which I have misspent
most of my life. And I realized with this advent
of what I think we’d already recognized as postmodern
and would indeed continue, and even up to now, I
think, this phenomena of postmodernism,
I realized that it was necessary to have
some other argument. And, of course, this
leads me to this question of critical regionalism. Well, I painted myself
into that particular corner with an essay that
appeared in 1983. It was on critical regionalism. And I know it’s been transformed
into critical pragmatism. And one could spend a long time,
or not perhaps so much time, but some time
discussing what are the difference between the
two criticals– critical regionalism versus
critical pragmatism. But in any case, of
course, both uses of the term
“critical” in relation to pragmatism on the one hand
and regionalism on the other is an effort to come to terms
with a very bewildering period of history, I think,
characterized, of course, very strongly
by the speed of change. I mean, actually, when I
look at this [INAUDIBLE] here and what’s the latest in
terms of digital projection, I realize that one
can hardly keep up with the speed of
technological transformation. And certainly, Chinese
development since 1983, I mean, it just occurred to
me for the first time that Deng Xiao Ping opened up
China to international trade and discourse in 1983. It just so happens, it’s
the same year of is essay, “Towards a Critical
Regionalism.” And China would then, as you
all know only too well, engage in such a hurricane or
onslaught of development such as the world has
never seen, I think, ever before over a very
short period of time. This question of speed again. I mean, what an incredible,
rapid transformation. And so that has, I think,
apocalyptical dimensions, the scale of this
transformation. And recently, I got
myself involved– I think is the best way of
putting it– with expanding this book, Modern Architecture:
a Critical History, which actually, as it happens,
was published first in 1980, the same year
as the Venice Bienalle. And it’s staggers
me looking back that only three years
later, I found myself writing this essay, “Towards
a Critical Regionalism.” And I don’t want to digress
too much about that. But I’m already risking
too many digressions. But I’ve been asked
recently to produce a fifth edition of that
book and to move it out of it’s Eurocentric
focus and take on the– it’s a preposterous
idea, but to take on the entire world
as it has unfolded, let’s say, certainly
since the first edition and also, since
the fourth edition just after the millennium. And so the idea is to
produce a fifth edition. And of course, that
means, of course, writing about South Asia and
about China and about Africa and about Anglo-America and
also about Latin America and about Europe. In fact, it means dividing
the world up into rather than chunks and trying to come
to terms with the last– well, since the millennium, the last
15 or so years of development worldwide. And so I tried my
hand, of course. And I still haven’t
finished in coming to terms with the absolute
phenomenal transformations in China. In doing a little
research on this topic, I found out in the year 2010,
which is not very long ago, China was consuming 54%
of the world’s concrete, 38% of the world’s steel. It was building at an absolute
apocalyptic rate, basically. And at that same time, the
number of villages in China dropped from 3.7
million to 2.6 million. Rural China undergoing a
corresponding apocalyptical transformation, so much
so that China was losing 300 villages a day, in fact. And so that phenomena
is something I open up the whole
discussion with. And I go on, of course, to
talk about things like Qingyin Ma’s famous, you might say,
canonical Father’s House of 2002, which I
know is out there in the form of a model, a
slightly surprising model, I think. And I also spent
some time talking about Yung Ho Chang
and his career here but also, of course, in China. And I talk– now, rather passe–
about the commune at the Great Wall. And I realize there’s
a very beautiful house by Yung Ho Chang, which is sort
of a split house, on that site. But it was some
time before I would meet Wang-Shu and Lu Wenyu. And in fact, I I met
him once before he got the Pritzker Prize. And then just this year, at
the end of May, I met him. And I went to this
extraordinary Wenchun Village, which is under– I think it’s
correct to say not restoration, but a kind of
progressive rebuilding. And when he got the
Pritzker Prize in 2012, he had so many so
many commissions, he didn’t know what to do
with himself basically, most of which were turned down. And actually, this image
shows someone working on the stonework in this Wenchun
Village, which is in Guangdong, I think, and about an
hour-and-a-half’s drive from Hangzhou. And so recently, I went to China
for the purposes of– in fact, I gave my library, given
where I am in terms of my own chronology, to the
English-speaking university in Hong Kong, and largely
because of Chinese students, [? Tao ?] [? Tzu, ?] who was
a student at the PhD program at Columbia. And he and one other Chinese
student, [? Eunice ?] Sing, started a movement
to bring my– well, I think it’s better called
a collection of books– to the Hong Kong university. And on that occasion, I went,
exactly at the end of May, in order to inaugurate the
transshipment of these books to the Hong Kong university. And I with him, with [? Tao ?]
[? Tzu, ?] took a flight for overnight stay in
Hangzhou with Wang Shu, and giving a talk in the
Chinese academy there, Chinese art academy. And I still am a bit
overwhelmed by the fact that he was so
keen to receive me and to have me
lecture there, which I did on the topic of
megaform as urban landscape. But the next day, I
had to choose between, since I didn’t have
any time– going to the Ningbo Museum of
his or to this village. And I’d only just
discovered this village because of this 2015 issue
of Arquitectura Viva. And this building
a new tradition, so-called “Timeless
China,” a very nice essay by– and of course, my
pronunciation is– I need a lot of instruction. But Li Xiangning, I think,
wrote the main essay that accompanies this
issue of the magazine. And what impressed me
enormously is this village. I mean, I was aware, a
bit, of the early work, the late modernist
work of Wang-Shu. But I was particularly
struck by this village and by the language, his
language– or their language, I should say, since it’s a
partnership– for this village because what impressed me
is this hybrid character, of course, and this use
of motifs, some of which almost have a
rhetorical character. I mean, the bamboo, these
bamboo elements that support the overhanging
roof, they are rather rhetorical in a way, I think. They’re kind of
metaphors somehow. And on the other side, of
course, you have this– well, it’s somewhat Western, I think,
in the end, this Neo-Palladian stripped concrete arcade. And this is the village. And it’s still an
ongoing project. And we spent– I
mean, I don’t know– six hours in this village,
going from one place to another. I think it’s a remarkable work. And actually, one of
the things about him is the fact that he was
asked by the municipality to design a museum. And he says, oh, no, I will only
design a museum if you give me a village, in fact. It’s like Hillary Clinton’s
it only takes a village. And so he got this village. And this is still very
much an ongoing project. And the interesting thing,
the interesting approach, is that he did work
with the local agrarian community, farmers mostly,
very small-scale farming, horticultural farming, and
also breeding silkworms. Quite a lot of the houses are
devoted to raising silkworms. And well, he insisted
to upgrade the standard because most of these houses
were about 120 square meters. So in the rebuilding
operation, they were twice that size, 250 square meters. And the clients asked for
more than one living room. There was a living room which
would be used as a television room, of course– such is
the time we’re living in– and a separate main space
used as the dining room, plus, of course, bedrooms and
utility room– well, kitchen, bathroom, three
bedrooms, actually, mostly, and a utility room
which was used either for storage or for
the breeding of silkworms such as the extent to which the
economy is very much sort based on silkworm production. And this village
know stretches out along this continuous river. And of course, it goes back. So some of the work, I
think, is quasi-restoration. And some of it–
this lot here, and we were looking at this street
earlier– is really rebuilding. And well, here you
see the river, which is a bit dry in this image,
but in fact, was in full flood when I was there. And there is something,
I suppose you could say, [INAUDIBLE] about
this treatment. I mean, its very
sophisticated use of fenestratin in these
cubic forms, and of course, using rendering and again, this
black tile, I think, really. It’s a kind of stone tile. And then there’s also
something a bit [INAUDIBLE] about the whole operation, this
figure of Camilo [INAUDIBLE], in that there are
all these little set pieces like this covered
bridge, which is also a place to sit, and that divide up the
rhythmic patent of the village as it extends along
the waterfront. What is going on here? OK. And then this use of wood,
also on the inside so that– actually, all the houses,
you enter through a courtyard. In many cases, the rooms
around the courtyard are lined in wood with windows
opening onto the lower level that you see in this image. In this very short
survey of Galliano, Luis Fernandex-Galiano, there
are number of other works that are included like
this project, which is by this firm called Scenic
Architecture, which is actually a community center
near Shanghai. And I suppose the most
fundamentally hybrid, radical feature is, in fact,
the gable is full of wood. This use of wood, very refined
wooden louvers, that is it’s not really a Chinese thing. And certainly, the
gable would normally not be filled with wood. I’m sorry, out of order. So this is the very crude
sections through this community center where you see
that the traditional roof structure appears, as
it does, of course, in all versions of– a
pseudo-traditional roof structure appears as it does,
of course, in Wang-Shu’s Chinese art academy in Hangzhou. And well, the plan is sort of a
little weird, really, I think. I mean, and of course,
there’s no information so that this seems to be the
adult part of the community center with its cafe,
I suppose, and dining facilities, with these
courtyards separating them out. And you notice these
freestanding columns that relate to the roof structure. And then this seems to
be the children’s wing, that I take it that these are
beds for children to rest on. I can’t figure out. But there’s no information
in the publication at all about that. I’m told to try the other one. All right, OK, there we are. And that gives one, I think,
an idea of the gable end and the use of– well, it’s
a curtain wall, after all, of wood and glass. And this is a tea house in
Beijing, a so-called tea cafe. Oh, I should mention
that these guys, who do the– that is, this
by Scenic Architecture– I was very impressed by– now,
I forget exactly where it is– a beach facility by
Scenic Architecture, which is one of the most
amazing constructivist, functionalist disposition
of a restaurant and bathing facilities on the edge of a
beach with ramps and so on, a language that is completely
other than this language from Scenic Architecture. And this one is Arc
Studio architects. It’s a tea cafe in a
[INAUDIBLE] in Beijing. And I think, in a
way, actually, there’s a model of that in the
exhibition as well, not a particularly
good model either. I mean, I think this
project is a little weird because this concrete
roof sits, in my opinion, at a very uncomfortable
relationship to these traditional pieces. And inside, it doesn’t
get that much better. It doesn’t become
more sophisticated, including these Danish chairs. I think they are Danish
chairs, of course, modeled on traditional
Chinese furniture. And then, there is an
episode in the same space, which is like this. You could be by a
sauna or something, the influence of the Japanese
on China, for God’s sake. And I think not very convincing. Sorry, not very convincing. And then there’s this
extraordinary thing by Zao, Z-A-O. It’s a visitor
center in the Himalayas. I think it’s absolutely a
mindbogglingly powerful piece in stone and and
concrete, of course. It’s in the so-called
Tibet Autonomous Region. And it’s on Mount Namcha,
7,782 meters high. But what fascinates
me about it is you can think there are sort
of two basic influences, I would argue. One, of course, is Louis Kahn,
somewhat, and more forcefully, perhaps, Peter [? Zuntu’s ?]
[? “Bowels.” ?] Well, it’s very impressive,
and it’s also not so easy to understand, that
is, exactly how the space is distributed inside. It’s for mountain climbers. There’s a huge gorge at the
bottom of this whole thing that goes on for 400 kilometers. It’s a huge scale. But it is for mountain
climbers, and, well, you see, it’s all in stone,
except the core is concrete. And then so you have to try to
figure out what all of this is. Obviously some of it
is bathrooms, kitchen, administration, and so on. But the listed program is
reception room, public toilets, specialized store, a bar,
service for mountain climbers, changing rooms, meeting rooms,
offices for guides and drivers, and somewhere, God knows,
there’s a power plant– but unnumbered. Again, one lacks really
precise information. But this is a technology. It is stone on the
outside and stone capping with a concrete
core and insulation. It’s hard to know exactly. There must be a beam
here somewhere or other, but it’s hard to
figure out where it is. More of the same. And then there is
this item, which is in Hunan– Baojing, Hunan. I think it’s a hospital. Well, it’s sort
of the same issue. The architects in this
case are something called rural urban framework and
John Lin and Joshua Bolchover, and they got an Aga Khan
Award for this, I think. It’s a sort of spiral idea. You don’t get it from here. This facade has very
thin windows and brick, and you can see the context. That’s also rather interesting,
the context, I think. And then it is a sort
of spiraling building. You enter on a ramp,
and you continue to climb up the ramp
itself– quite wide– becomes a kind of continual
waiting room. And it’s a very small
health facility, and it makes a big use of
precast concrete components which screen the
ramp as you rise. And there is a kind
of amphitheater in the core of this
spiraling form, and it is otherwise, of course,
reinforced concrete frame construction. It’s nowhere near as
sophisticated as the thing I was just showing you,
but it’s another example. And we have this, which is a
section which shows the way that the ramps– they’re kind
of stepped ramps, really. They’re stramps that
climb up the spiral, and it shows you the
amphitheater also and something of the context. Well, this is it. We will soon be entering the
so-called discussion phase, because this is my
last piece, which is Wang Shu and the Amateur
Architecture Studio, Lu Wenyu, et cetera. And as far as I can judge,
this is a kind of hotel, and actually, in my case,
I spent a night in it– so a fairly comfortable night. I mean, there didn’t seem to
me there were that many rooms. It’s partly a social
center, partly hotel. There are rooms. There are dining rooms. There’s a little restaurant–
more than a little restaurant. I think it’s a
substantial restaurant. So it’s used for small
conferences, for reception. It’s this kind of conference
center come hotel. But the amazing
thing is it’s covered in this roof, this
continuous roof, and someone told
me that Wang Shu had seen somewhere a
village remote that was covered with a single roof. And so that’s the roof. This drawing is a little weird,
because one doesn’t quite know what to make of this. Well, in fact, as you probably
know– and some of you must have been there– there
is an obsession with staircases and galleries and staircases. And in most cases, the
galleries and staircases are running on the outside
of the various faculty buildings that make up
the Chinese Academy, but here the galleries
and staircases are within, under this roof. And I take it–
well, I don’t know how else to read the
drawing– that these are certain galleries that seem
to be like non-sequiturs rising up under the roof. And the whole thing, anyway,
sits next to a stream in the more or less
center of this academy. Well, I think I was thinking
about what would I say. Actually, I wrote a piece–
it’s a long time ago now– which played on Nicholas
Pevzner’s comment that Adolf Loos is
an enigma, which of course certain Italians
would completely refute. But I think there is something
enigmatic about Loos’s overall production,
and I think there’s something enigmatic about Wang
Shu’s total production also. Because when you look at the
fact that these different spaces– and don’t
really ask me to name. Now there is a
number going, but I don’t have– this was sent
to me recently by Wang Shu, and I don’t have the key for
what all of this is actually. And I can’t remember, either. I was in it. It’s labyrinthine, of course. And I don’t remember there
being so many parallel walls, but obviously there are. And I do remember there being
these extraordinary staircases that seem to arise from
nowhere and lead to bridges, and they go down. So now the staircases, instead
of being on the outside, are mainly within the
body of the building. And this is the upper level,
but other than just showing it I cannot be more articulate
about what is what. And then this is the
roof, and you see, again, like some kind of
parasites, these staircases are up here under the roof. There are other staircases
but these are shown, and there are top lights
in the roof system. And this is it, and
this roof cascades over the top of these walls. I should now say
that these walls are adobe– I think slightly
reinforced with cement. And they’re red and yellow earth
walls that are taken nearby. There are two different
quarries– one red, one yellow– and then
they are stabilized by a reinforced concrete
frame in most instances and these cross walls. Now I think the language is
becoming– see, this roof. And also, here’s
my ignorance again, but I do know that
Lu Wenyu is somehow– if he is a genius of
drawing in pencil, and he does say somewhere I
am the one who draws in pencil and my wife comes
and criticizes me. But that’s in this very
beautiful Lars Muller book which contains the time
of Wang Shu’s Pritzker Prize. This book is published
by Lars Muller, which is full of nothing
but drawings know and some various interesting
comments, one of which I’ve just cited. But I think I dimly
remember something almost like geodesic structures
made out of wood, or 10 integrity structures
made out of wood that I think primarily are due
to the skill of his wife in handling wood. And of course, he doesn’t
say this– no text I’ve read says this either– but I think
that this whole roof is very much– I mean the actual wooden
structure, which you can’t really call a space frame. You see, every so often, on
top of the cross walls, there steel joists on steel tubes
extending the cross walls up to carry the roof. And so we see more of the same. I suppose that’s the point. Some of these stairs go over
the top and then down again. But unlike the other
buildings, they’re not running on the elevation. They’re within the
body of the building. More of the same. And now you see
perhaps very clearly the way these stairs take
off and the whole itinerary of stairs running
up inside here. And, well, when I am with
him there, at some point he starts to talk about
Piranesi’s “Carceri,” and I find that very impressive
that he makes this reference. And also, when I look at
the detailing of the steel and also of this use of
adobe, I think that it’s close to Scarpa, actually. So it’s sort of a
Marco Polo in reverse. This magus of
Chinese architecture is looking at Italy in two
different moments in history, of course. I mean, you can make
a crude comparison, but for instance, the roof
over the museum in Verona, Castelvecchio– this kind of
roof is, of course, Scarpa. And we know Scarpa had a great
respect for Chinese work. And this is my last image, a
bit of a detail about the roof and the walls– not too easy
for me to code it either, but, well, you get it. There’s this really crazy,
ingenious truss system. And that’s my last image,
I think– no, not quite. Well, you see,
here it’s the same. Look, these stairs take
off, and actually these kind of galleries sometimes terminate
in Belvedere-like sitting places to look out over
the water and the campus as a whole. Finally, I’m beginning to
understand my own material. Here you see that this
is a stair going up on top of the roof, and here
may be better than anything I’ve shown up to now. It shows the red and
yellow adobe walls, the way they’re reinforced
by the concrete, stabilized by the concrete frame. Sometimes there are in-situ
walls and in-situ concrete going right across. There’s a little strange
patio garden that on one side, on the other side,
you get the water. More of the same. I think that’s the last slide. No, more of the same. It goes on. It’s an extraordinary work. It goes on and on. And here, the mixture of the
adobe, some red and some, well, not exactly yellow, but anyway
here he’s using mixed material. Well, it reminds one, of
course, of the Ningbo Museum, and you can see this
is a kind of terrace. And here is a continuous stream. And then there are all
these unbelievable– I mean, this is like a parody
of the moon window opening in the Chinese wall. I mean, this you could
qualify as fairly aggressive, I think–
plastically and very emotional space. I mean, here, of course,
you have a concrete wall, and I’ve forgotten that
these cross pieces are lined in bamboo in this way. More of the same, and you see
the concrete frame, of course, appears here. And looking down on
reflecting pools that then cascade into the river. It’s incredible. You look right down
here, and the complexity of this circulation
becomes very apparent, I think– also, again,
the adobe and the frame. That’s it. So I don’t have too many images,
but I think– ah, yes, well, maybe I should end on this note. Maybe some of you can remember,
but I can’t quite remember. But I think three years ago
or three or four years ago, the Central Committee
of the Party said that they
were going to move 350 peasants from the
countryside into the city in order to create
a consumer society. I mean, I just think this is a
historic moment, a mindboggling historic moment, that
what is still basically a communist government, the
People’s Republic of China, should have the aim to move the
population of the United States from the countryside
in the next 10 years. This is about three years ago. I don’t know whether that
project is still moving, but the way the whole
thing ends, in order to create a consumer society–
that is pretty sobering. And so that brings
me back to Wang Shu and this architectural
resistance, in a way. He uses that resistance and
I guess his involvement. He doesn’t use the term critical
regionalism nor the term critical pragmatism,
I don’t think, but he does use this
term “resistance.” And so this is my
little piece on China, which you’ll be happy to
hear I’m not going to read, which is the draft of
an entry that I hope to put in this expanded book. But then I sent it to [? Tao ?]
[? Tzu ?] in Hong Kong, and he was not very
happy with this thing. And he mentioned Liu
Jiakun, who is out there with this extraordinary
perimeter block. And he mentioned Liu Jiakun
because of his politics, and [? Tao ?] [? Tzu ?] is
somebody who has a very kind of– what can I say–
delicate relationship with the People’s Republic of China. He is from there,
of course, but he lives and teaches in
Hong Kong University and goes backwards and
forwards and is very critical. He is very critical,
not only of me but also of the Chinese power
and very pro-Liu Jiakun. And he said, there’s no
mention in this essay of yours about Liu Jiakun. What’s the matter with you? s now I realize what
he’s talking about, because that’s the
first time I’ve seen this extraordinary
perimeter block, which may share
something with Wang Shu inasmuch as there are some of
these strange ramps that criss and cross up one side of it. But that’s it. That’s some extent
of my provocation. Thank you. We can now invite Michael
for a very brief response, and we can invite our
three student respondents to the front as well. And everyone can just jump
in with questions or comments any time you want. Thanks. So I’m going to keep my
comments brief and then join you and [? Tiron. ?] No, I won’t
join you and [? Tiron. ?] Ken will join you and
[? Tiron ?] for discussion. This last bit reminds
me of why I thought the pairing of Kenneth
Frampton with, in a way, the show outside China
GSD, the interest in this and other interest,
was such a good idea. For my generation,
Kenneth represented one of the very few scholars
that we took seriously, let’s say, even ideologically
or politically as well as intellectually. And there is a discourse
underneath Kenneth’s still apparent ethics. Maybe ethics is a better
word than politics, actually. There’s a discourse under
there, a real commitment to recuperation of issues
like micropolitics, ecology, and, as he said, even
a kind of partisan resistance. The 1983 essay that he
mentioned– underneath that was a weaving together of the
traditions of the Frankfurt School that we still
study in this school of hermeneutic phenomenology. It included the writings
of Hannah Arendt, of Jurgen Habermas, of Martin
Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur. I’m not just name dropping. What I’m suggesting is an
intellectual commitment that is very, very deep– this is
my first point– that makes, I think, this work
appropriate to a match with trying to unpack
contemporary architecture in China. It turns out that between
1985 and 1989 in China– I mentioned this at the last
conference on the museum talk. I will continue to
mention it until somebody proves me right
or wrong, so this is the charge to the students. It turns out over
100 theory texts were translated into Chinese,
including Frankfurt School writers like Walter Benjamin,
Taylor, Adorno, Marcuse– interestingly not Hannah
Arendt– but also Habermas, Ricoeur, and Heidegger. And I’m just showing the
early book of Heidegger, Being and Time, translated. I’m not talking about the
importance of philosophy. I’m actually talking about
a parallel displacement of philosophy and
appropriation of philosophy into what we now
call theory, and this is the beginning in the West,
in the Europe and the States, of contemporary
architecture theory. And I’m wondering
if work could be done to trace some of
this work like we’re seeing, like Kenneth showed
tonight, like as in the show. There are discourses
that underpin that work. There are
conversations in cafes. There are scribbles
on paper napkins. Architects do read. There are discourses
that underpin that. I’m not suggesting that Wang Shu
read “Building and Dwelling.” What I’m suggesting is
that somebody else, one of his students, might have
read it and told him about it– something like this. The word “resistance” is
a very particular word, and it would be
interesting to see how that– I’m quite sure that
Ai Weiwei is part of this. I just wonder if
there are architects. Just real quickly,
just to remind you, in Kenneth’s formulation
of critical regionalism, it comes from a
kind of dialectic between Ricoeur’s version
of universal technology and traditional
regional culture. And it couldn’t map on
to China better the way that, like you say, this
de-villagization of China into a very high-tech and
leveling technology that destroys traditional culture. This is Heidegger’s more
dramatic realm, a bounded, particularized place
as distinct from what Heidegger called a
more Latin, extended, and kind of gridded space. There’s, of course,
scenographic images versus tectonic
construction, and Kenneth is the one who made
tectonics such a central part of contemporary
architecture discourse. There are typology
versus topography. These are repetitive,
reiterative, formal structures, versus site-specific,
tactile, bodily– well, and then there is a sensuous,
experiential conditions and that versus purely
visual representation. It seems to me that
what Kenneth did was take a description
of architecture that he thought was authentic,
say that of Louis Kahn, and then with that description
made a prescription of what we should be doing. And it involves the relationship
of these dyads to one another. In some ways, it wasn’t possible
in the States or in Europe to fulfill that project. The sort of site-specific
topography, the tectonic craft construction, the admittedly
and enthusiastically, quote-unquote,
“retrogressive” component of critical regionalism didn’t
seem legitimate in the States. It somehow seemed legitimate
in places where handicraft is still vital,
viable, and continuous, like parts of South Asia,
like at least parts of China. So I think this
critical regionalism exhibits this tension between
description and prescription and seeks to take features and
promote them for future works. It’s as if the Chinese
non-institution, if I have that right, architects
are in some way answering that call. So I was thinking maybe
this is what we can discuss, that some modification
of critical regionalism is not a bad place
to begin if we can imagine a rebooting
or a kind of CR 2.0. I think part of what
it would do would seek a deeper historical logic
in the past of current systems. It’s very interesting to me that
critical regionalism requires a going back into certain
tectonic and constructional systems that we– at least, I
think, I– didn’t have examples of until recently, the
way that Wang Shu can use traditional laying up
of the tile and the brick legitimately. It’s not faked somehow. It’s not reconstructed. It’s a continuous part of
a past that still exists. I’ll just end with one more
suggestion, that to this we might add– and
this is something I hope to discuss in courses
later– one more dyad of absorption and theatricality. I’m borrowing this–
some of you know this– from Michael Fried,
an old book where he distinguishes in painting
absorption and theatricality. I think we see it in China. Theatricality at its best
would be Zaha’s Galaxy Soho, something that involves the
viewer, that’s spectacular, but that also is the purest
symptom of impatient capital– let’s say, in Rahul
Mehrotra’s words– where absorption would
be– I don’t know, Wang Shu, Scott
Cohen– a structure that is more absorbed
in resolving itself than in presenting
itself as a spectacle. Now, it follows from cenography
versus topography and things like that, or representation
versus experience, but I think absorption
and theatricality– a kind of rewriting of that
might be a good addition to these dyads of
critical regionalism in the case of China. Thanks. Thank you. If I can find our
student respondents, Kyle Yun and [INAUDIBLE] and
also Kenneth, if you can– Thank you, Professor Frampton,
and thank you, Michael. I was actually really happy
that Michael brought up the question about translation,
about in the late 1980s what we call the Cultural
Fever period of time. Because Professor
Frampton, you may know or you may not
know how much impact you made to the Chinese
architects, notably after the publication of the
translation of two of your most important books– the 1980
book Modern Architecture: A Critical History, which was
later translated into Chinese in 1988, which is exactly
during the time when those theories– Heidegger. Paul Ricoeur– were
pouring to China during that period of time,
halted by Tiananmen Square. Well, of course, that
subsequent editions of the book, translated and with
the latest version translated in 2012– that
means the next edition will be translated soon
afterwards– and the 1995 book Studies in Tectonic Culture,
which was translated in 2007. And over those years there have
been quite a few discussions on the concepts that are crucial
to your theoretical framework– like you mentioned, critical
regionalism and tectonics and resistance and
also cultural identity, which is many people’s
favorite word in China, not only in the
field of architecture but also in many other
fields in recent years. And there’s a
personal experience, that I remember
there was one time several years ago after the
translation of Tectonics. I was at a lecture by the
Chinese architect [? Chao ?] [? Li ?], after which there is
one guy who asked the question “are you tectonic enough?” So for me it’s like
your term “tectonics,” or the architectural term
“tectonics,” in China reduced to an evaluation criteria. To some extent I feel like
the theoretical construct of yours inadvertently
has conflated the diverse architectural
tendencies that it championed, in a way. Well, I was thinking. I took a quotation from the
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, that language can
be petrified and hard as stone. So I was curious
about the thoughts you might have in terms of
the reception of your theories in China and beyond. Or to frame the
question in another way, what are the expectations you
might have for your readers? You mean architectural
citations? I don’t know. I mean, the speed of
development and the scale of it is so overwhelming, really,
I think– not only in China, but elsewhere. And so citations–
well, I suppose you’re saying what
works could be considered to be a sort of
model for future practice. It’s clear that those works
have existed in the past, and I think at the
same time one ought to recognize that there
is not just one practice and that there is not just
one model, either, of practice and also that culture
has a rhythm to it. Even at a fragmentary scale,
but also a larger scale, a movement or a certain body
of work starts to appear. It rises. It becomes very present, and
then it sort of diminishes. I mean, I think
it’s part of culture that there is this
sort of movement, and that movement takes
place over varying time, in different places of
quite varied time scales. Of course, the moment of
history we’re living in is so fast that the
movements are fast also, and everyone can
reduce it to fashion. But it transcends
fashion, I think. It’s something else. And in fact, in trying to expand
modern architectural critical history, the big issue
is, what do you include and what you exclude? What is the criteria
for judgment playing the linchpin
critic, so to speak? How can you justify
your own reflection, in a way, on what is appearing,
what is being produced? And I recently had to think
about that rather hard, and I still haven’t been able
to formulate it very well, by what criteria. It seems to me that
there is, on the one hand, the modern movement
and the continuity of the modern movement,
beginning in Europe in the period between the First
World War and the Second World War, definitely had a
social program in relation to a kind of language–
a sudden expression also in relation to a certain
societal, you could even say political, aim. And when that movement arrives
in the United States– 1932, more or less, you
can say– what came is mainly the language,
but not the social program. And American architecture
is a reflection of that, I think, even up to now. Because it’s very
much, of course, to do with the kind of society
that the United States has been and still is, in a way. Well, I mean, vis-a-vis
modern movement, but then I think one also
has to recognize continuities of tradition which
are not, strictly speaking, the modern
movement and how to weave these two together. Even though Lou Kahn was maybe
part of the American New Deal, ideologically the
true body of his work is not really modern
movement in that sense. It’s returning to some kind
of tradition– a rather complex tradition, I think. And it seems to
me that maybe it’s not really a pertinent
reflection on what you posed to me, but I’m a bit
hung up on, on the one hand, the modern movement and,
on the other hand, traditions which are not part of
the modern movement. And there is this amazing
map that Le Corbusier makes of the “Voyage D’Orient,”
which he makes in 1912. He doesn’t publish
the map until 1955, but the map has cities of
Europe and against these cities he puts in different
densities the letter C, the letter F, and the letter
I. “F” stands for folkloric. You could say “F” stands for
folkloric equals vernacular. “I,” of course
equals the industry– you could say equals technology. And “C,” a little
bit more problematic, but he calls it culture. It’s somewhat ambiguous. But I find I’m more
and more preoccupied with this map and
these three poles because– well, I’ll take
it a little bit further. I think by “C,” in the European
case, he means classic somehow. Culture is classic. So then in the idea of a new
modern culture, in his case, there are these three strands
that are mixing but also breaking apart, and you can
see evidence of those strands in his early period’s work. And I somehow think
that, but I can’t make it sufficiently clear
to myself or anybody else, that when I’m trying to
talk about traditions and the modern movement as
opposed to tradition somewhere maybe this triad he develops
is more interesting– not more interesting, but more productive
as a concept than my efforts to distinguish between
traditions that are not really intricately part of
the modern movement and the modern movement. I didn’t really mention a
particular model, except, for example– since I
mentioned it already– that Liu Jiakun’s
perimeter block is surely a continuation of
the modern movement. But it’s more questionable
that the Cao, this group, C-A-O– this building in
stone up in the Himalayas. I mean, they’re building–
which owes something to Kahn and maybe also
to [? Zunto– ?] stone on top of concrete. You can’t really say that that’s
the modern movement, I think. But you can say it
represents some kind of continuity of tradition– if
you like, tectonic tradition. But in a way, if you
take those two things, the Liu Jiakun perimeter block
and the Cao mountain retreat station, they represent two
quite different models of two different cultural, you could
say, stroke political models. If you can make it brief,
the comments, so we can have the time for arguments. Thank you first for
your presentation. It’s very refreshing to
hear a critic speak directly about the architect’s
work, as opposed to the polished
version in your book. But you use very often
the word “apocalyptic” to frame the Chinese
circumstance, and because of this you present
the architectural scene now as being very unique in history. But a lot of literature, at
least the quantitative ones– they see a lot of parallels
between the process that China is going through
now to perhaps the process of modernization in Japan and
then the Four Asia Dragons. And in fact, if you compare
the normalized terms, the rate of change in China
is actually not as quick as, say, something like Korea
during its most turbulent times or even to Italian
circumstances. I mean, a lot of
scholars use the word “flying geese formation” to
describe a similar pattern, first occurring in Japan, then
in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and then in the
first tier cities of China and in the second
tier cities of China. So even you yourself note
a lot of similarities between the Japanese
architects, which you obviously have written a lot about,
to the Chinese works that are being produced now. So I wonder how
much difference do you see between the
Japanese circumstances, say in the times of Tadao
Ando or a lot of architects that you had
written a lot about, to the circumstances
in China now. Well, I mean, I used
the word “apocalyptic,” and actually,
arriving in Hangzhou, I remember the plane
coming and then this very alienating landscape
of slap rocks, auto routes, et cetera. And then you come to
the historic city which hasn’t been touched,
and so it’s somehow a bit of a surprise after
passing through this landscape. But vis-a-vis, you
said many things. I think I’m not really
able to judge statistically how does the Chinese
expansion compare to the Japanese or Korean or
other Asian modernizations. Michael referred to
Paul Ricoeur’s text, which I was very
inspired by when I first tried to glue this idea
of critical reasoning together, where he distinguishes
between universal civilization, singular, and national
cultures, plural. And then he somewhere
says, very soberly, not every culture can withstand
the process of modernization. It’s a very different
world, but recently I tried for the first time in
my life to look at Africa. And somehow those
words recur in my head. “Not every culture can withstand
the process of modernization.” I mean, many
cultures, of course, are completely wiped
out by the modernizing. Languages, of course,
are wiped out, and when those languages
go, the culture that accompanies the
languages– they’re gone. They’re wiped out. And modernization is
a force, of course. I mean, it’s just extremely
present everywhere– here, of course, very much
here, in the States. I remember thinking that this
problem of national cultures versus universal civilization
and how you could apply the model to the States. I mean, not every culture
can withstand the onslaught of modernization–
even the culture which creates the modernization. Because it has, of course,
as Michael mentioned, the no longer forbidden
word of capitalism. It is, of course,
linked to capitalism, and we’re stuck with
it somewhat, I think. And well, there
are moments when it was possible to
mediate certain forces, and I think that
architecture itself depends on a kind of mediation, that
the culture of architecture is a mediation of
reality, in a way. And therefore, it
has at its best a sort of resistant
character, because it seeks to mediate
what is otherwise given by the modernization. That’s why many building
developers– of course it’s impossible
to work for them, because they’re not
interested in anything that you could call “culture.” They’re just interested
in the maximizing profit, so the discussion ends
there on the spot. It’s not possible to have a
discussion, because they’re not interested in mediating. And I think that’s the
challenge of being an architect. It is this question of
the limits of architecture also have to be thought about. And I’ll stop, because
I’m taking too much time. But there is a moment
between the two wars when it was possible to believe
that the modernity could also carry with it a kind
of social justice and more equal distribution
of wealth, et cetera. But that period has passed,
and it’s interesting that rural China does represent
a domain that is inherently resistant, I think. Anyway, that’s enough time. I couldn’t help but to notice
the number of, let’s say, monolithic buildings
that appeared in the series of
works, and it reminded me a little bit of this
idea of time and speed that goes parallel to
architecture, but also of a lecture that
Wang Shu actually give at MIT about
a year and a half ago in which he described a kind
of struggle of being presented with a new series of works
that were being commissioned in Europe to him. And the struggle was
because, as he explains, architecture needed
time, but also needed an understanding of the place. And the place that,
as I understood it, wasn’t necessarily the site
but the culture that goes with it, the material culture. And so the struggle
is that, in a way, in these series of works– these
buildings made of stone, adobe, gives the idea
that one needs time and to go through a
thinking process to leave, let’s say, such mark on
the ground or on a place or even on a culture as it
pertains to the society. But I’m also left with the
other half of the story, which are the existential conditions
that occur in cities today in which they are not
necessarily afforded by the idea of
time and thinking. And so I’m wondering in your new
book or in your new writings, or in the new CR 2.0
as Michael mentioned, what are some of the suggestions
and tips that you might provide to, let’s say, these new
architectures that are surging right now– not only China,
but also in other parts– that still want to keep
thinking of architecture as something that is historical
and traditional as well? I mean, they are
heavy, these questions, but they’re certainly justified. Well, let me just start with
this question of the city. I think that the megalopolis,
which– I think the figure is a French geographer,
who coins the term in 1960, I think, to describe the
Eastern seaboard of the United States, the continuous
urban region that runs from Boston
down to Washington and also the parallel
on the West Coast. And you could say it runs
down the length of Japan, et cetera, Uki to
Kyushu and so on. But as a kind of a real built
condition, a modernization that took– there’s this wonderful
title of a Frank Lloyd Wright book, The Industrial
Revolution Runs Away, this modernization that
took on a continental scale. And I think Asia
probably is experiencing, has experienced, much of the
same– well, Japan, anyway. And what can architects, or
for that matter urban design, contribute to that? That’s a big question mark,
since you mentioned it. It’s hard to say what
can one contribute. Recently in trying to
write this fifth edition, I had to sort of think
for the first time seriously and include, moving
back in time, Josep Lluis Sert, for example, who
was here, et cetera, and who was able to conceive and
get built mega urban pieces– maybe not so mega, but
small urban pieces, also in this area, in
Cambridge and so on. And that achievement of
his was not followed much afterwards for all sorts
of different reasons, but anyway, I think
he invented the term “urban design,” in a way. And he probably was maybe
even the last urban designer, as a matter of fact. He published in 1948 a book
called Can Our Cities Survive?, where he only put a
question mark over it. The only contribution I
fiddled around with is to think could one– well,
I think landscape is terribly important. I think in terms of
mediation of the megalopolis, landscape is a
fundamental agent. I think landscape is maybe more
important than urban design, more to contribute to the
fields of architecture than urban planning
or– I mean, it’s scandalous to say these things. But I am not very convinced by
the urban planning discourse or by urban design discourse. But I am much more convinced
by landscape design discourse and also strategic
landscape, regional landscape of which there are some
very good French designers and others, of course. So I think landscape,
perhaps, is one mode of intervention in
relation to the megalopolis that can be meaningful. But the other part
of your question, I don’t quite know
how to deal with it. I better stop, I think. It’s too difficult.
What was the other part? I guess to which extent
the revision or the redux of your writing affords us,
let’s say, the new generation of urban designers, planners,
landscape architects, and architects
suggestions and tips to continue to slow
down the process or at least to be critical. I have kind of answered it. By the way, you have this
unbelievable landscape designer in Beijing, don’t you? Chinese, with a big office. [INAUDIBLE] And I don’t know
enough about him, but he was trained
here and all that. So I mean, that’s someone that
I have to go and meet him. I need more information. Are there any questions or
comments from the audience? Thank you, Professor Frampton. I just want to go back to your
point about the difference between critical pragmatism
in China versus your notion of critical regionalism. And so it’s a combination
of a comment and a question, I guess. So for me, as [? Shan ?]
[? Ling, ?] the curator, describes critical pragmatism,
it’s sort of the way that Chinese architects in the
80s begin to shift away from or create these private
practices as opposed to state-led design
institutions. It’s a resistance to the
political condition in China at the time, and also
it’s sort of a resistance against economic speculation
of property developers. So that’s sort of the
definition that’s out there. One example would be [? Shan ?]
[? Ling ?] was talking about how Wang Shu was not registered
when he got the Pritzker Prize, and so when he won it the state
authorities didn’t even know who he was. So that was an
interesting point, but then to go on to a
point about the difference between Japan, China, and
Korea, I think the difference that I see is that both in Japan
and Korea the idea of state formation and the formation of
the architectural profession itself as a private mode
of practice kind of unfold at the same time– in the 20s in
Japan and in the 60s in Korea. But in the Chinese
instance, what I see is this divergence
between state formation and the formation
of the profession in the Chinese context. It’s much more uneven. And then to go back to the
point about the difference between the critical pragmatism
and the critical regionalism is that your points about
critical regionalism– to me, critical regionalism
seems to be a resistance against architectural
discourse on high modernism or the actual movement
of high modernism itself. So it’s more of a architecture
qua architecture critique as opposed to critical
pragmatism, which is more sort of against
the political condition of the nation itself. And then so my last
question to summarize this would be if the
Chinese case is really sort of trying to resist
the speculative modes and the economic conditions,
et cetera– I personally am kind of skeptical and
cynical about the possibility of architecture to entirely
resist this speculative mode. I mean, the example
you gave was a hotel, and it’s hard to
say that that is resisting economic speculation. The very idea of a hotel
business is speculative. Is the optimism– does it
lie on the level of discourse and our position as
theorists and historians? And how much can the
built environment actually respond to it? I understand. I mean, just to pick
up on the hotel thing, that hotel of Wang
Shu’s doesn’t relate to any idea of a hotel
in the United States. It’s really a small
building in a university. Maybe just to clarify,
the hotel is actually like a hostel for visiting
scholars for the academy. It is, so it’s not
really a hotel. But the bigger
issue that you are talking about as well,
which I didn’t know about, the relationship of the
profession to the state and your argument that in
the Japanese case– and it’s a very interesting
point, I think– that the state
was more committed to developing the architectural
fashion in relation to the state and as
a policy in relation to modernization of Japan. And I think it goes back even
before the Second World War to the 30s, to the Showa
period and so on, even with all the dark
aspects of that as well. But I think probably
that in the case of Japan there was this connection
between the state and the profession,
and that would apply, let’s say, also to Finland. No question that Finnish
cultural politics, political policy was very
much connected to architecture in this balancing act between
the Soviet Union and the West. In a way, the Finns
used architecture as a sort of cultural
balancing device, in a way. They had a good tradition to
build on, of course, and also on a social democratic
idea of the state as well. So those are certain
moments, and I think there’s work perhaps
to be done about comparing different moments. Because I talked earlier
about moments having a trajectory in which
they rise, they peak, and then it can also be
applied to the relationship between the state
and architecture. Because I feel like
today that, for instance, Japanese architecture has
become, in my opinion, very weak, and I’m
sorry to say I’m not convinced by [INAUDIBLE]
and all the rest of it. I’m not convinced by the very
manner of Japanese minimalism. It doesn’t do anything
for me at all compared to Maekawa, Kenzo Tange. What are we talking about? It’s like total
regression, in my opinion, and I’m being very prejudiced. But that’s how I feel about it. I think in the
work out there also there are little glimmers
of the imprints of Japanese, can I say, mannered behavior
also on Chinese work. The other thing that
is difficult to handle is, well, it’s a
competitive profession. Architects compete with
each other, et cetera, so it’s tricky. But I think in
places like this, you ought to be able to
have a discourse, as we are having,
in a way, about what kind of cultural
strategies could be productive over a wider
front than, say, one’s own individual career, I think. But I like very much
your intervention. I was on a trip with some of the
China GSD students last year, and we visited some architects
who were fairly critical of Wang Shu. In a sense, they said
he’s too literal. And there had to be an
architect like that, but they thought he was too
literal in the interpretation. So where do you draw the line
between literal interpretation and more of the essence
of the architecture is captured without being
necessarily obviously Chinese or traditional
in any way? I mean, you could
make other criticisms. Because the building I showed,
the building in the Chinese Art Academy– it is
also very mannered and also not
particularly economic– and sort of uneconomic, really. And that’s why I use the
word “enigma” in relation to him, in a way. I mean, I really
respect what he’s doing, but there’s something enigmatic
about it at the same time. And even he writes about it
in a somewhat enigmatic way, as well, about drinking tea and
all the rest of it and so on. But it’s extraordinary
work because it is so rich, and of course you
can criticize it because it’s so
eccentric, in a way, particularly on this
grounds of the economic. I mean, it’s sort of
indisputable in some way, but still this kind of
richness is really important. A figure who suffered
in the critical sense, not so much in Italy but
in the way his work was received outside Italy,
was Carlo Scarpa, who is also uneconomic. I don’t know how
people like that manage to emerge and to practice in
the real world, so to speak. How do they do it? How do they begin, even? And it would not be possible
for someone in Italy to practice as Scarpa
practiced today, I think, so again you have
this phenomenon, almost a timebound appearance
of a certain body of work that has a very
strong cultural power. But now you can’t
do that anymore. I mean, it’s
inconceivable in a way. But that’s why I think Wang
Shu is interesting, very interesting, from
this point of view, from the point of view
of the resistance. Of course, you could
say this evocation of the tradition is too
contrived, in a way, or too self-conscious
or something, but I think it’s impressive. Can we take one last
question from the audience? Thank you very much. I’ve had the most
wonderful evening. I was a student at this
school about 40 years ago, and I was absolutely
enchanted that you mentioned Sert, who I think was the most
extraordinary genius I ever heard in my life. But what appeals to me about
what’s happened tonight is that I live in Shanghai. I’ve lived in
Shanghai for 20 years, and I’ve really
contributed, I think, to the destruction of Chinese
cities, to some extent, as a Westerner. But I think that what I’ve
heard tonight from everybody seems to me to offer
pointers to redress what is happening
in China and helping with the problems of Chinese
cities, which are really to do with equity and access
to good resources and space and air and water and all
of those sorts of things. Really the last thing China
needs now is architecture. It really doesn’t
need that at all. What it needs is landscape
skills and people like Sert, and I think it’s going to get
a lot out of hearing what you said tonight about redressing
the balance, of pulling things back a bit the way that
you talked about Wang Shu and people like that doing. So I think it’s been absolutely
wonderful for me to hear it from that practical and
pragmatic point of view, that it might pull
Chinese thinking, or Western thinking that
have wrecked Chinese cities, back a little bit so that they
can start to do proper things. And I think that’s
been fantastic, and that’s the
great thing that I see that Wang Shu
could contribute, apart from anything else. So thank you very
much for your time. Thank you. I’ll also thank again Professor
Kenneth Frampton for joining us tonight, and I thank everybody
for staying to the very last minute with us. Thank you.

ChinaGSD Distinguished Lecture: Professor Kenneth Frampton, “Chinese Architecture”
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One thought on “ChinaGSD Distinguished Lecture: Professor Kenneth Frampton, “Chinese Architecture”

  • September 16, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Wang Shu's architectures tend to be more fundamental and simplistic because of his unique incorporation of local materials and the environment.


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