The Bartlett School of Architecture


Chin-Wei Chang

Black and white image of men in suits posing for a photograph



A Middle Ground between Beaux-Arts and Modernism: Tracing Chinese Modernities in Architectural Education, 1923–1952


It was not until the 1920s that the Chinese commenced the formal training of and associated partnerships with ‘home-grown’ architects. The first generation of Chinese educators and practitioners were young professionals who had recently returned home from training in foreign institutions. Exploring their work both at school and in practice – but focusing mainly on the former – this research is concerned with the different approaches and trajectories in Chinese architectural pedagogy influenced by western and Japanese paradigms or methods. It investigates how these ventures were institutionalised in academy and expanded into urban design and landscape schemes.

The proposed research focuses on a nebulous middle ground between various paradigms such as Beaux-Arts, Modernism and, crucially, ‘Chineseness’, where aspects of Chinese building traditions and working methods were incorporated into professional teaching between 1919 and 1949. The research is temporally framed within these three decades bound by the May Fourth Movement and the Maoist Era because it was in this seminal epoch that architectural teaching became established in China. This study seeks to explore the intellectual and pedagogic intersections through a trilogy of themes: practice (engineer, architect, planner), pedagogy (professor, researcher, writer), and discourse (publication, exhibition, competition).

While aiming to construct a clearer picture of the territory characterised by these three themes, the research concentrates primarily on the pedagogical and institutional context, which is comparatively under-researched and has largely escaped scholarly attention. The work also reflects on the relationship between pedagogy and practice, investigating the key figures, divergent discourses and institutional developments that collectively characterised China’s intense pedagogic and, consequently, architectural heterogeneity before 1949.


Chin-Wei Chang is a current PhD Candidate in Architectural History and Theory at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He was trained as an architect and gained a Master’s in urban design in Taiwan. His previous research addressed the social production of spatial forms within non-architectural environments and everyday landscapes and their conflicts with modernity in the contemporary built environment. In pursuing his doctorate, he now focuses on the architectural profession and academia, with a special focus on histories and dissemination of design education in China, Europe and the US.