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Urban China Lecture Series featuring Cole Roskam – Planning Exchange: Ideas, People, and Cities in Circulation During China’s Opening and Reform Era

April 9 @ 8:30 am 10:00 am

Speaker:  Cole Roskam, Professor of Architectural History, Department of Architecture, University of Hong Kong

Beginning in the 1970s and intensifying during the 1980s, the People’s Republic of China initiated international scholarly exchange programs with numerous countries at a range of levels and scales within Chinese society. These interactions were intended to facilitate knowledge transfer, particularly with regard to distinctly technical forms of knowledge; more generally, they also helped increase China’s connections to the capitalist world and vice-versa. At the same time, the exchange also offered a somewhat unpredictable vehicle for change—a fundamentally subjective experience capable of producing profound incommensurability and asymmetry across disciplines and individuals.

This presentation examines the dynamics at work in exchange within the broad field of urban planning and design, which was a particularly popular arena for international engagement in reform-era China. In this presentation, I explore the complex, interpersonal dynamics of exchange in relation to planning expertise, and the extent to which the inherent subjectivities at work in the experience of exchange proved consequential to urban planning practices in reform-era China and, more generally, the fundamental strangeness of reform itself.

Cole Roskam is professor of architectural history in the Department of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. His research explores architecture’s role in mediating moments of transnational interaction and exchange between China and other parts of the world. He is the author of Improvised City: Architecture and Governance in Shanghai, 1843-1937 (University of Washington Press, 2019) and Designing Reform: Architecture in the People’s Republic of China, 1970-1992 (Yale University Press, 2021). His writing has appeared in ADArchitectural HistoryArtforum InternationalGrey Room, and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, among others. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Washington, DC), the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal), and the University of Edinburgh.

Zoom Meeting Link: https://mit.zoom.us/j/92743598127


April 9
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


Presented via Zoom

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