Author says the state control of building practice in medieval times may serve as a reference for problems of corruption in contemporary China.
Jiren Feng, assistant professor of Chinese at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is the lead author of the book Elements of Architecture: Roof (2014, Marsilio Press, Italy), published as one in a series of 15 books on architecture.
The Elements of Architecture series was published in association with the 14th International Architectural Exhibition held in Venice, Italy, from June through November 2014. Entitled “Fundamentals,” the exhibition showcased projects made by architects, photographers, artists, critics and scholars from 65 countries around the world. Hosted by the Venice Biennale and curated by Rem Koolhaas, the exhibition looked back through the past 100 years to explore the role of architecture during different historical periods through themes such as war, depression, fascism, industrialism, growth and expansion.
“In 2013 I was invited by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, a leading international architectural corporation centered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and founded by Rem Koolhaas, to collaborate as a team member and an expert in Chinese architecture for the two workshops on Chinese architecture organized by OMA as an important preparation for this Venice Biennale,” explains Jiren. “We worked on the Song-dynasty, the tenth to thirteen centuries, wood framed structure, including bracketing and roof systems, both in blue foam models and in writing.”
Roof addresses the social and political settings of the government control of building practice, and reveals distinctive cultural implications of the architectural technology and methods in medieval China. It specifically points out that the state-issued standards on building methods, materials, labors, and hours were closely associated with an intention to curb corruption in construction administration and financial budget of local governments, which became a critical part of state management.
“The state control of building practice in medieval times may serve as a reference for contemporary China,” says Jiren, in reference to revelations of serious corruption currently a hot issue of national concern in China.
The book series was edited by Koolhaas, winner of the Pritzker Prize and director of the Fundamentals exhibition. The aim of the series is to look at the fundamental architectural elements to recognize the cultural preferences, forgotten symbolism, technological advances, political calculations, regulatory requirements, and many other factors in architecture. There is a book for each element: floor, wall, ceiling, roof, door, window, facade, balcony, corridor, fireplace, toilet, stair, escalator, elevator and ramp.
Along with Feng and Koolhaas, Roof was authored by Fang Zhenning, Stephan Petermann, and Irma Boom. The ISBN for the whole set is 9788831720199; the individual ISBN for Roof is 9788891013101.
To learn more about Feng’s research, see story in Keaohou, “Jiren Feng, Chinese studies: Researches the interplay of Chinese architecture and literature.”
About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.