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Building in China: A Century of Dialogues on Modern Architecture

The art museum is composed of two bridges, one on the top of the other.
Jishou Art Museum, designed by Yung Ho Chang / Atelier FCJZ

January 28, 2022 - April 22, 2022

Architectural Archives and Fisher Fine Arts Library
220 South 34th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Please note that advance registration is not required of visitors to the exhibitions, only for related events.

The Weitzman School of Design, in association with Southeast University and Tongji University, presents Building in China: A Century of Dialogues on Modern Architecture, a two-part exhibition tracing the country’s shifting design practices over a century in which many of its leading practitioners and scholars were educated at Penn.

About the Exhibition

Since the 1920s, the undergraduate and graduate architecture programs at Penn have attracted Chinese students who went on to highly influential careers, beginning with Liang Sicheng (1901-1972), Yang Tingbao (1901-1982), Tong Jun (1900-1983), and Lin Huiyin (1904-1955). After returning to China, they founded the country’s first modern firms and educational institutions, devoted themselves to the rediscovery and conservation of Chinese architectural heritages, and introduced many Western design practices in China. Their works grew from the Beaux-Arts tradition but incorporated a Chinese architectural vocabulary, and they sowed the seeds of Modernism in China. The dialogue between the East and the West is alive in contemporary Chinese architecture, and can be seen in the interplay between the pursuit of modernity and the search for national identity. In the 21st century, a rising generation of independent architects, in practice and in education, is actively seeking alternative languages to express Chinese characteristics against the backdrop of the country’s rapid urbanization and massive building projects. In a range of projects and styles, they use design as a tool for cultural critique.

Building in China investigates significant moments in the continuing architectural dialogue between China and the West, between different generations of architects, and among contemporary designers in China. The first part of the exhibition, presented at Penn’s Architectural Archives, focuses on historical representation, and features a series of buildings designed by the first generation of Chinese architects trained at Penn, many of which remain unpublished. They illustrate the architects’ responses to the international modern movement in the first half of the 20th century as well as the ways they intervened in the growing Chinese cities. The second part of the exhibition, on view at Penn’s Fisher Fine Arts Library, includes six projects by architect-educators Yung Ho Chang, co-founder of Atelier FCJZ, and Shu Wang, co-founder at Amateur Architecture Studio, which are emblematic of contemporary Chinese architectural practices. These artists’ studios, museums, college campus, and village revitalization demonstrate their attempts at incorporating and balancing modernity and locality on the small, medium, and large scales, and reflects the architects’ ideals for contemporary Chinese urban and rural societies.

Related Programs

Building in China: A Century of Dialogues on Modern Architecture is presented in conjunction with a symposium titled "Engaging Chinese Architecture: A Centennial Conversation." Originally scheduled for Friday, January 28, 2022, 8:30am - 11:30am, this event will be rescheduled. Advance registration is required.

There will be an opening celebration on Friday, January 28, 2022, 7:00pm ET. Admission is free and open the the public; advance registration is required for visitors who are not current Penn students, faculty, or staff members.​

Yung Ho Chang will give a lecture on Friday, January 28, 2022; 5:30pm. Admission is free and open the the public; advance registration is required for visitors who are not current Penn students, faculty, or staff members.

Building in China: A Century of Dialogues on Modern Architecture is curated by Dr. Zhongjie Lin, associate professor of city and regional planning at Penn; Dr. Ming Tong, professor, Southeast University School of Architecture; and Dr. Xiangning Li, professor and dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University.


Realized through the China Research and Engagement Fund at Penn, the project has been supported by Penn Global, Penn Wharton China Center, Architectural Society of Shanghai, Atelier FCJZ, Amateur Architecture Studio, and ArchiDogs. Project advisors include Jiaming Cao, Yung Ho Chang, Amy Gadsden, Ping Huang, Lijia Lu, Wenyu Lu, Frederick Steiner, Shu Wang, William Whitaker, John Zhang, and Tong Zhang. Scholars including Ariel Genadt (associate curator), Liyang Ding, Jiawei Jiang, Qi Zhang, and Boqian Xu have contributed to the curation.