Icons of contemporary architecture in Beijing

  • Joanna Kucharzewska (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Every time one thinks about contemporary Beijing, one begins with Tiananmen Square, the witness of some breakthrough events in the recent history of China. The urban planning project of the square was carried out by Zhang Kaiji in 1954. The architect was born in Shanghai in 1912 and he graduated in architecture from the University of Nanjing. He was the principal architectural consultant in Beijing after Mao Zedong rose to power. The square he created was located at the very heart of the former inner city, and constituted – through specific grandiosity – a competition to the imperial city, stretching out to the north of the Gate of the Heavenly Peace. In the times of the People’s Republic of China, the gate, despite having been an integral part of the imperial past, was symbolically incorporated and inscribed into the landscape of the new urban planning. The first instance of adopting the Tiananmen Gate to the purposes of communist China’s nomenclature was its inclusion in the official national coat of arms in 1950. Such associations with the new rather than imperial times, were enhanced by putting the image of the leader on the facade of the gate, between the two inscriptions: “Long live the People’s Republic of China” and “Long live the united nations of the Earth”, as well as by his regular speeches from the box, also designed by Zhang Kaiji. [...]