Research Portfolio Post #8
I am proposing to research the meaning behind the use of postmodern architectural materials when crafting globally visible buildings because I want to find out how countries’ motivations for using the postmodern style align or differ. This will help my reader understand how architecture is harnessed to evoke a particular identity or message on the world stage. For my interpretive research design, my question is: how was it made possible for people to understand the cultural symbolism of postmodern architecture as progressive in the early 2000’s in China? The specific discourse I will hone in on will be the discourse that primarily surrounded the construction of the Beijing National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) from 2003 to 2008, as it was constructed in the postmodern style and was widely discussed by architects, artists, politicians, and public figures alike. One way I could accomplish this, as noted below in my first primary source text, will be to analyze the discourse of the entire team, composed of thousands of people, in charge of operating the 2008 Summer Olympics—logistical reports, interviews, meeting minutes, and planning documents. I will do this because this staff geared the construction of the Bird’s Nest entirely towards that singular event, knowing it would attract international attention and had the potential to shift the world’s view of China. They controlled media reports, news articles, and any other press that had to do with the Bird’s Nest; I will also evaluate these publications, but first, I will go straight to the source—the conversations and ideas between the staff members themselves.
One primary source text that has helped me understand that there is a discourse at stake is the Official Report of the 2008 Olympic Games, Volume III, composed by the team in Beijing responsible for erecting an entire Olympic stadium and officiating the Games. This source was compiled for the staff to put together a cohesive plan for the Olympics and its goals, explicitly stating that “the high-tech architecture of the stadium will showcase the city’s improved innovative capacity and its solid progress on its way to modernization.” Thus, it is evident here that the postmodern style equates, unequivocally, with modernization in these staffers’ minds; therefore, this dominant discourse does, in fact, exist. The section of the document written by the architects involved with the construction of the Bird’s Nest also says “the graceful curves of the building symbolize the vitality of the Chinese nation… [they] welcome the participants from all over the world in celebrating peace and the progress of China.” This text is seminal for understanding how postmodernism was connected to progressiveness—the Bird’s Nest was the first globally visible example of postmodernism on a massive scale in China, and the actors in this discourse are the Olympic team—its architects, its press liaisons, its political coordinators—who had complete control over how this architectural phenomenon was to be packaged and presented to the public.
Another primary source text that represents my object of inquiry (postmodern architecture, specifically the Beijing National Stadium) as progressive is a speech given by the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Liu Qi. He said, when selecting the winning design for the stadium from a competition between six architects, “We must try to host the Olympics well, in order to enhance the confidence and the spirit of striving, and to fight together to realize the great progress and revival of the Chinese nation.” The word ‘progress’ appears once again in reference to the building itself, showing the discourse that postmodernism was seen as progressive. The actor this time is slightly different—someone who actually had the power to choose the design of the stadium. His goal was to showcase the ‘progress and revival’ of China, and he deliberately chose the postmodern design to do so. This speech is connected to other practices and discourses in that it was public—he made this announcement when he was presenting the winning design to the public. Before the stadium was created, postmodernism was not a prominent art form in China, so there were not many existing discourses outside of those discussed by niche scholars and artists. This speech, then, brought postmodernism into the public eye and stamped it with the label of ‘progressive.’
Liu Qi, “Address to the Olympic Committee,” Olympic Charter.
“Summer Games Olympic Report, Beijing 2008.” Information Management Manual, Olympic Charter.
 “Summer Games Olympic Report, Beijing 2008.” Information Management Manual, Olympic Charter.
 Ibid, 19.
 Ibid, 265.
 Liu Qi, “Address to the Olympic Committee,” Olympic Charter.
 Ibid, 2.