Last edited 10 Jun 2021

Chinese brutalism


[edit] Introduction

Brutalism is a style of architecture that grew out of the early-20th century modernist movement. Brutalist buildings are characterised by their massive, monolithic and ‘blocky’ appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of poured concrete.

Chinese brutalism is defined by a solid, severe aesthetic that emphasises utilitarian functionality. Like its counterparts around the world, Chinese brutalism uses concrete as one of its primary building materials.

[edit] The first wave of Chinese brutalism

The brutalist architectural style first appeared in China after the People's Republic of China was formed in 1949. During this period, the country experienced an increased demand for utilitarian structures designed to support housing and manufacturing requirements.

The early Chinese brutalism was synonymous with socially-progressive housing solutions that architects and town planners promoted as modernstreets in the sky’.This approach combined the ethos of ‘social utopianism’ with the influence of constructivist architecture.

Stylistically, urban planning took direction from the Soviet approach to brutalism, incorporating grand squares as central gathering points.

[edit] The 10 Great Buildings

In 1959, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding. As part of this tribute, the country took its 'Great Leap Forward' - a cultural initiative that highlighted architecture and urban planning. Included in the initiative were projects that blended Socialist Realism and International Modernism with touches of traditional Chinese design. This Great Leap Forward included construction of the 10 Great Buildings.

Of the 10 Great Buildings, six incorporated principles of Stalinist architecture through the lens of Chinese brutalism. These buildings are:

  • The WorkersStadium (renovated in 2004).
  • The Minzu Hotel.
  • The Overseas Chinese Hotel (demolished in the 1990s).
  • The Great Hall of the People.
  • The National Museum of China.
  • The Chinese People's Revolutionary Military Museum.

WorkersStadium 800.jpg

Workers' Stadium


Minzu Hotel

National Museum of China 800.jpg

National Museum of China

The other four buildings - the Cultural Palace of Nationalities, the Beijing railway station, the National Agriculture Exhibition Hall and the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse - have different design motifs.

Most of the buildings were constructed in the 10 months leading up to the 10th anniversary. The work was undertaken through a collaborative effort of the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, the Beijing Planning Bureau and the Ministry of Construction. To commemorate the significance of the 10 year milestone, two of the buildings (the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China) incorporated the number 10 into design elements as well.

For more information see: 10 great buildings.

[edit] Maoist era Chinese brutalism

During the Maoist era, Chinese brutalism was commonly used for government projects, universities, car parks, leisure and shopping centres and high-rise blocks of flats.

Examples of Maoist-era Chinese brutalism include:

[edit] Modern Chinese brutalism

China’s production of concrete has helped sustain the Chinese brutalist style in recent years. China is one of the largest consumers of cement and concrete with Chinese architects generously incorporating the material into infrastructure and building projects throughout the country.

Modern Chinese brutalism is still characterised by its rough, unfinished surfaces, unusual shapes, heavy materials, straight lines and small windows. As well as concrete, other materials commonly used in Chinese brutalist buildings include brick, glass, steel and rough-hewn stone.

Examples of modern Chinese brutalism include:

  • Taizhou Contemporary Art Museum (Architect: Atelier Deshaus).
  • Gymnasium of New Campus of Tianjin University (Architect: Atelier Li Xinggang).
  • Ningbo History Museum (Architect: Amateur Architecture Studio).
  • Luyeyuan Ston Sculpture Art Museum (Architect: Jiakun Architects).
  • Memorial Hall of Long March of the Red Army (Architect: Atelier FCJZ).
  • Seashore Library (Architect: Vector Architects).
  • Lippo Centre (Architect: Paul Rudolph).
  • Urban Tulou (Architect: Urbanus).
  • Xiangshan Campus (Architect: Wang Shu/Amateur Architecture).
  • Hangzhou Arts Academy Campus (Architect: Wang Shu/Amateur Architecture).

Tulou 800.jpg

Urban Tulou

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again