China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

The Art of Architecture in 21st Century Urban China

Totally Awesome Picture of the Week 56

Once upon a time, shelter was constructed from only so much as sticks, mud, and skin. The functionality of these primitive structures was basic and limited. They provided mild protection from the elements and a sense of warmth to cold bodies. To the inhabitants of the era they were called “igloo,” “tepee,” and “insert hieroglyphic here.”

As the centuries passed, these simple windbreaks evolved into such well known entities as the home, the tree fort, and the boxcar-which beat both the tepee and cave in safeguarding from the weather and woolly mammoths and topped all three by not only warming the body but also the heart.

However, now, with the idle threat of Y2K waning in the past and a looming nuclear Pakistan clouding up the future, there is little doubt that the present is the time, if there was ever meant to be one, for all out, unconventional creativity.

Hence such glorious contemporary monstrosities as the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV Levi’s, and this ramshackle hut. The “Jia,” as it is referred to by its chief architect, who stands solemnly in its shadow, is an example of the furious dedication modern makers put into their creations. In a word (though the concept may be as much a part of history as the Mammoth) it is Art.

Comfort and convenience aside, these buildings exist as feats of daring design, extravagant excess and, to the viewer, trippy disorientation. They are comprised of computerized calculations, manufactured parts and scrap-pile theft. More than a demonstration of the time, they represent a literal embodiment of humankind’s soul and the continued conflict of tradition versus progress.

The ramshackles, in their dull modesty, are being stomped out by their giant, shiny brothers, like the internal community of the Linked Hybrid apartment complexes. The possibility of extinction for these seemingly eternal shelters causes great concern in the eyes of critics who hold the opinion that character is lost in millions of tons of concrete, steel and glass.

For those of you who encourage this development, the present, though economically rocky, is a golden era. Those of you who do not may find solace in the possible return of the Woolly Mammoth. If that doesn’t help, cross your fingers for Pakistan.

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