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Unbinding architectural imagination: Wang Shu’s textual bricolage in theoretical writing and design

Jin, Xin; Hale, Jonathan


Xin Jin


Architectural writing norms have been a subject of constant debate in recent decades. Architectural poststructuralists have often conceptualised writing as a form of virtual construction in the medium of words. Recent scholarship relating to innovative architectural writing questions the power relations inherent in the canonical forms of academic architectural writing. This article examines Pritzker prize-winning Chinese architect Wang Shu’s [王澍] doctoral thesis, ‘Fictionalising Cities’ [‘虚构城市’] (2000), and other related writings, focusing on their experimental forms, the critical intentions behind them, and the multiple resonances between Wang’s written and built works. This article begins by foregrounding the intentions behind Wang’s experimental writing approach, namely his rejection of the dualistic opposition between writing and building, as well as his critique of instrumentalism in architectural representation. Through a close reading of ‘Fictionalising Cities’, this article explicates the central influence of Roland Barthes’s understanding of text as a ‘tissue of quotations’ and Claude Lévi-Strauss’s concept of bricolage in shaping Wang’s writing approaches and his design thinking. By comparing Wang’s written and built works, specifically the Ningbo History Museum [宁波美术馆] (2003–2008) and the Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, Phase II [杭州中国美术学院象山校区二期] (2003–2007), the article identifies Wang’s consistent critical sensitivity towards the power relations and implied linear temporality that pre-structure modes of architectural creation. By highlighting Wang’s case, this article also suggests how the critical concerns that drive innovative architectural writing can be expanded into creative design practice.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 10, 2023
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jul 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 1, 2024
Journal Journal of Architecture
Print ISSN 1360-2365
Electronic ISSN 1466-4410
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 7-8
Pages 1012-1033
Keywords Visual Arts and Performing Arts; Architecture
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Architecture on 10/1/2023, available at: