The Failure of "Chinese Intrinsic Form"

Rui Wu


Architectural trends in modern China have evolved into four stages over the course of history : from the “Chinese Form” in the 1900s, to the "Chinese Intrinsic Form" in the 1930s, to the "Ethnic Form" in the 1950s, and to the "New Ethnic Form" in the 1980s.

“Chinese Intrinsic Form” can be defined as an assembly of interrelated structural components -- wood-like columns, beams and corbel brackets -- of traditional Chinese construction reforming  with a more sophisticated western technology, but in a holistic and unified manner. It mainly employed for administrative buildings, exhibition halls, commemorative buildings, gymnasiums and commercial buildings. A distinctive attribute of “ Chinese Intrinsic Form ” is its general layout of spatial sequence, as determined by the axisymmetric plane composition,  interior configuration, and form of facade.

The new era in nationalism promoting began when “Chinese Intrinsic Form” came into being in 1927. The Chinese architects wanted national pride of expression for the semi-colonial society of the day 1 without considering how their thoughts and design might aid or hinder the modern evolution of architecture in China. Or the true aspiration may be obscured through neglect rather than intent. In either event, notable questions arise as to whether the representing implication about "Chinese Intrinsic Form" is more about political or academic.

This paper is indent to discuss the historical background of "Chinese intrinsic form" and its architectural cases in order to explore the reasons why it failed.


Chinese Intrinsic Form, traditional architecture, semi-colonial, modern China, building structure

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