Changing Tides In Chinese Planning

Metropolis Magazine talks with Chinese architect and planner Huasheng Sun about how the two fields have changed as the country transitioned from communism to a more capitalist society.

"Since it was declared a Special Economic Zone by the Chinese government in 1980, the city of Shenzhen has grown from a town of thirty thousand to a megalopolis of an estimated 12 million citizens. Professor Huasheng Sun, a 74-year-old professor of architecture and urban planning at Shenzhen University, has been both an influential participant and a witness to the transformation of Shenzhen from a rural village to the world's fastest-growing shipping port and one of China's most productive cities."

"like others of his generation, Sun has forged ahead with China's new economic agenda, despite decades spent designing the spaces and places of a communist society."

Metropolis: "What is it like now working with architects and planners from the West, since China was closed-off from Western ideas and practice for so much of your career?"

Sun: "A Chinese proverb says, if you listen from different sectors, you can make yourself quite clear. This means that if you only listen to opinions like your own, you are living in a consensus world, and you will not be as clear in your mind. This proverb, I think, is correct-especially in urban planning practice. I say this because I have met some American architects, and I can tell you that the American architects are too focused on their own opinion. Every time, they persuade the client to accept their opinion. But they don't live in mainland Chinese cities–-what they understand is only from a very short time in those places, so usually they don't understand the background. Of course, they can insist on their opinions, but the client thinks, 'Oh, the foreigners do not understand what I have in my mind.'"

Full Story: Two Kinds of Knowledge

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