Constructing a Constellation of Architecture Criticism in 1980s China: Zeng Zhaofen and a Tale of Two Journals
Keywords:Architecture Criticism, The Architect, Zeng Zhaofen, Constellation, China
In 1980, Zeng Zhaofen, an academic at Tsinghua University, co-founded World Architecture, a journal devoted to introducing global architecture to China. While steering the journal’s operations by editing articles and organizing academic activities during his editorship (1980–1995), Zeng seldom published architecture criticism in his own periodical, but rather did so in the journal’s local rival, The Architect. His writings, with their strongly committed political and operative tendencies, became one of the leading voices advocating for abstract modernism in 1980s China. This paper draws on Walter Benjamin’s notion of the constellation, using Zeng’s critical activities as a vehicle to examine the conditions of possibility for journal culture and architecture criticism. It argues that The Architect journal and Zeng’s published criticism maintained a shared character as a constellation through juxtaposing multiple texts, architects, projects, and ideas and presenting coherent positions within an underlying structuralized pattern—reconstructing the repressed discourse of modernism. The historical appearance of this intellectual constellation was dependent on a vibrant ecosystem of architecture criticism that reached its heyday in the 1980s, characterized by the dynamic and productive interactions between critics, editors, architects, and other stakeholders in a relaxed socio-political climate.
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