Architectures of Global Modernity, Colonialism and Places

By Arif Dirlik

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 33-61

This article discusses the issue of the colonial in the global through a historical examination of two moments in the development of architecture in China. One is the moment of colonial domination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when architecture as professional practice was introduced to China, creating a modern Chinese architecture. The other is the present moment of globalization, when colonialism is supposedly a thing of the past. This latter view has been used on occasion to deny colonialism in the past as well. The article argues against this perspective that the present moment, in the spread of architectural forms originating in major centers of global power, through the agency of global architectural firms that are themselves transnational corporations, is marked by an even greater coloniality of power in its obliviousness to and erasure of places. The major difference from the past is the direct complicity of the state in this globalization of architecture, which suggests that we should pay closer attention to the issue of class in the consolidation of colonial power.