Institution of China's Building Production: A Mechanism Description for Architectural Design Institutes


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date26 Mar 2020


This study focuses on the large architectural design institutes in China, including state-owned design institutes and private architecture firms – which are the backbone of the urbanization movement in China. Under the circumstances of intense competition in the aspects of technique and creativity from the international market, China’s urbanization reform is in a critical period. As the organization model of architectural design becomes mutable in the segmentation of the architectural design market, more and more architecture firms make systematic reforms, in a flexible response to this circumstance.

Targeting at this transformation trend, the author plans to find out what unique social and institutional characteristics have an impact on architectural design institutes. The dissertation aims to build more connections with the modern experience before and after the Chinese economic reform and those with both the Chinese, Soviet and west, and also focuses on establishing an analytical framework to examine the interactions between mass production and monumental designs, professional specifications and public realms.

Under the institution of “architects/ architectural works and events/ institutes” framework, we observe that in response to the changing market competition, design institutes mostly experienced active and passive reforms, and the status of individual architects and architect groups fluctuated within the body of design institutes. The external manifestation of these reforms is the increasingly-diverse architectural works of these institutes. The author analyzes the relationship between the system of design institutes and its context, i.e. the political, economic, societal framework of these systems, as well as relevant events and people in the scene, and explored the rational reasons that affected the establishment of the system as well as the specific impact of the implementation of specific system and reform. We learn that the innovative potentials of building products are not bound to a single target but is a time-consuming process of mobilization of existing resources and big-scale capital gaming. The spatial innovation problem that cannot be easily incorporated into the existing study will be translated into specific historical variables. By reviewing the space creation system and its architectural products in a comprehensive way, we will arrive at a tentative “(institutional) innovation model.”

This dissertation reviews the emergence of urban architectural space in the time span of 70 years since the founding time of the People’s Republic of China. By analyzing both the evolution of building production ideas and the institutional backdrop of these ideas, the thesis outlines the general organism of urban space production in contemporary China. It is hoped that the comprehensive historical study is of reference value for the future identification of production models of architectural spaces in China’s subsequent urbanization path.

    Research areas

  • Institutional history, Chinese modernity, Chinese architecture, Socialist urbanism