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.
2005 Peter Nesteruk