Chengdu event promotes 20th-century Chinese architectural heritage

Updated: Sep 25, 2023 By Yang Xiaoyu Print
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Shiping No.1 Middle School in Yunnan province [Photo provided to]

It may surprise many to learn that the Sydney Opera House in Australia, built in 1973, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007 when it was barely 40 years old.

Yet, they would be more surprised to know that one-eighth of the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, were erected in the last century. However, none of China’s 20th-century heritage sites have made the list, even though the country, boasting 57 world heritage sites, tops the list.

Chinese Cultural Relics Society and the Architectural Society of China unveiled the eighth batch of the 20th-century architectural heritage sites, numbering 101, that they had discovered in China’s 24 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on September 16 at Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

The two academic bodies, keeping up with the international trend in protecting 20th-century architectural heritage, have been collaborating closely in the last eight years, travelling across the country to survey and identify China’s architectural masterworks made in the last century. So far they have identified and published 798 Chinese 20th-century architectural heritage sites, including factories, railroads, hotels, restaurants, and university campuses.

“The protection and revitalization of the architectural heritage of the 20th century should not only be a matter for our architectural community but also a common concern of the whole society, which requires raising the public awareness of the 20th-century architectural heritage first,” remarked Xiu Long, chairman of the Architectural Society of China.

In May, the two societies co-launched 20th Century Architectural Heritage Reader, an illustrated book geared towards architecture students and the general public alike. Embellished with more than 500 pictures and having 21 articles written by some 20 experts and scholars of architecture and heritage studies, the reader spotlights the living but often ignored landmarks created in the last century.

Jin Lei, secretary general of the committee on 20th-century architectural heritage of the Chinese Cultural Relics Society, said the eighth batch of the 20th-century architectural heritage sites, like the previous batches, are inseparable from the historical context of New China’s construction.

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