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  • Building in China

Building in China

Henry Murphy's K.

Jeffrey W. Cody

English , 2001/10 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Tags: History, Architecture

260 x 184 mm , 256pp ISBN : 978-962-201-871-6

  • US$50.00

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Building in China is about striking an architectural balance between the pull of monumental tradition and the push of technological novelty. Centering on the dynamic period of post-imperial and pre-Communist China, the book focuses on the building and city planning initiatives of Henry Murphy, a little-known American architect who initially ventured to China in 1914 to design a campus for the Yale-in-China programme, but who then found himself captivated by a professional and cultural challenge that lasted two decades: how to preserve China's rich architectural traditions while also designing new buildings using up-to-date Western technologies. Murphy's buildings were compromises — “new wine in old bottles” as he once called them — and the book uses those “bottles” as lenses through which to understand not only Murphy's quest to find a middle ground for his architecture in China, but also to gaze at a tumultuous society facing an uncertain future. Murphy's buildings were more than vessels for either aesthetic visions or technical expertise; inadvertently they became political emblems, as Chinese rulers such as Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen's son called on Murphy for city planning advice to complement their hopes for urban reconstruction.

There are few serious studies of Western architects in the twentieth century who practiced in non-Western contexts, and those scant studies that have been published concentrate largely on British, French or Dutch examples in colonial settings. Hence, the book makes significant contributions to the fields of both American and Chinese architectural history.

Jeffrey W. Cody is an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he has taught architectural history since 1995. He has been investigating Henry Murphy and his contemporaries in China since 1987 when, as he was completing his Ph.D. degree at Cornell University, he spent a year as a research student at Shanghai's Tongji University. From 1989 to 1995 he taught urban history and historic preservation in Cornell's Department of City & Regional Planning.

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