Manifesting the Intangible: An Examination of Authenticity of Chinese Architecture in Foreign Lands

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"The sky is very clear today."

The internet, media propaganda and transnational migration have created a global generation encountering a mixing-pot of cultural and national identities, where cultures are evolving into hybrids that challenge the notion of a 'pure' or 'original' society. Technological development has changed the way we live and build, and yet ethnic architecture has not kept pace with this progress. Throughout this thesis, the author investigates how architects can design appropriate ethnic buildings for current and future transnational Chinese immigrants seeing a virtual dissolution of borders, and understand what defines authentic Chinese architecture in the 21st Century.

Confused by so-called 'Chinese architecture' around the world, this thesis examines the formation of token Chinese architectural elements. It appraises the impact of the Western hegemony and generalised representations of culture in media on the creation of architecture as an embodiment of ethnic identity.


By understanding how Chinese architecture evolved due to outside influences, the intangible elements that contribute to ethnic architecture are unveiled and assessed in efforts to create an authentic Chinese architecture in 21st Century New Zealand.

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A 24-hour mixed-use complex off Karangahape Road on the site that Mercury Plaza once occupied is proposed as an exploration of the identity of younger generation Chinese immigrants in New Zealand. As an adaptation of the basic Chinese courtyard form, this design proposal is an architectural gesture for the in-between people, a formal expression of the hybridity of cultures in New Zealand.

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