Chinese cities II (Solar Symbols)
It is a commonplace that Beijing, Shanghai and Xiang Gang (HK) form an architectural continuum (also in market penetration and governance), with Beijing employing the most new buildings marked by vernacular tops and Historicist styling; Shanghai showing a mix of the latest vernacular tops, together with low-cost high modernism and modernist remainders from an earlier phase of its architectural history, and HK now beginning to put up some marked buildings, with the majority still following the basic pattern laid down by the modernist cube.
By contrast the office blocks (and in the main both of these developments are variations on the tower block, the high rise) still appear modelled upon the modernist cube. Albeit in practice these too show (as does most functionalist-inspired architecture these days and perhaps did even in its heyday) some kind of differentiation between the three parts, top, bottom, and middle (illogically, but pleasingly, indicating that symbolic rationale is now in the ascendant and has pushed aside economic, or ‘pure’ rationale). Again a coat of paint, a 'daubing' in ceremonial colouring, is added to the topmost portion to differentiate it from the rest, and to mark its addition, or belonging, to the other members of the city's collective solar (the perception of the topmost layer of architecture as of particular symbolic value).
It is these markings which mark out the part of the building which is offered up to the city, offered as a gift (and not just a contribution to the individual profit of the owners) - a portion which is felt to be joined-on to the city's upper regions. The part consecrated to public view, to help adorn the neighbourhood of the heavens and praise the proximity of the stars.
Copyright 2005 Peter Nesteruk