Aid, Sport and Architectural Exportation – A Study of China’s Foreign-aided Stadiums from the 1950s to the 21st Century


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date25 Aug 2020


This research investigates the historical development of modernist architectural design in China’s foreign-aided stadiums and how Chinese architects designed these cross-border projects in various historical periods under complex influences.

China’s foreign-aided stadium projects occupy a considerable proportion of China’s foreign-aided constructions overseas and stand out from other building types of China’s foreign-aided construction due to their unique qualities. These mega-structures are located in diversified geographical and cultural contexts, and their designs tend to be differentiated from Chinese domestic sports buildings to some extent. The author finds that architectural, non-architectural and regional factors existed as influential aspects in Chinese architects’ drafting tables, initially in socialist discourse and later in the approaches of independent designs. The three categories of factors functioned variously in different periods and regional factors played increasingly more significant roles, which are more appreciated and preferred by the recipient countries, especially in recent decades. Such tendency satisfies Third World countries’ yearning for modernization and transmits donors’ willingness to achieve the expectations of the recipient countries through Chinese thinking and methodology. This manifestation is believed to be the historical choice and is termed as unique “architectural exportations” in the research. Also, by carrying on with the governmental mission, Chinese architects’ cleverness, persistence, concession, momentum and breakthroughs while working under limitations have created new attributes to the exportation that is embedded in “Chineseness” and “China-aidedness”.

The current body of this research studies three periods, the 1950s–1970s, the 1980s–1990s, and the 21st century (2000–), which witnessed the development of “architectural exportation” in the designs of China’s foreign-aided stadiums. For each period, the influences that contributed to the limitations are reviewed and analysed, followed by the comprehensive understanding of case studies. This research aims to explore the (relatively) decisive influences and main design principles that Chinese architects preferred to adopt in different historical periods. The author has extensively read the related books, articles, and government documents, interviewed the relevant institutes/designers and visited the targeted buildings on site. Through these endeavours, this research reveals the architectural essence of China’s foreign-aided constructions and presents a panorama of Chinese-designed stadiums overseas in the past 60 years.

It is hoped that this research demonstrates the historical vicissitude of China’s foreign-aided stadiums, reveals the challenges and opportunities for Chinese architects, provides a reference value for the designs of future cross-border constructions, and further situates modern and contemporary Chinese (sports) architecture within a global context.

    Research areas

  • China’s foreign aid, stadium, Chinese architecture, regionalism, architectural design