Is the architecture of a society simply the airports, expressways, bridges, theaters, museums, meeting halls, condominiums and parking lots; the architecture as constructed by architects? A concern with these structures, solely from a physical aspect, overlooks the totality of relationships within society.
We all know the difference between Rem Koolhaus and Herzog and de Meuron. We also know that their styles and thinking are in conflict with the narrow nationalism of local Chinese architects, who are likewise in conflict with the traditionalist and preservationists. But when these two great generals squared off in China, the "field laboratory for international architects," in their pursuit of design of what should be [the standard model or architecture], each ended up as the corresponding "building code violation" of their rival. However, the complexity of their creation, paled in comparison to the complexity of the situation itself.
In the 80s, as per government mandate, taller buildings in Beijing were equipped with a ‘hat’ reminiscent of Chinese traditional pagodas. The policy resulted in a distinct dichotomy between the ‘hat’ and the main structure. In the 90s, Greco-Roman pillars were popularly reproduced on buildings throughout Chinese society, from the village hair parlor to government buildings. In the new millennium, the majority of the high scale property developments are named after regions in North America, for example, Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Yosemite. The feeling of dislocation created by suddenly dropping these names upon different geographies can also be considered a building code violation to the broader social subjectivity. Narrowly understood, then, a violation is a rebellious action against a certain dominant and normative standard. With regards to culture, the questions it poses include; "who sets or controls these standards? What ideologies are the values of these standards based upon?" "Building Code Violations" is a theme and not any particular building. It is an experimental space that occurs within real space. Its greatest contribution is to reflect both the how good and bad are counter violations of one another, which mirrors the dilemma and failure of the persistent myth of a totalizing modernity.
The symptoms of the loss of history, overturning of epistemological systems, the chaos of memory, psychological ruptures characteristic of developing countries in the period of transition are reflected in an unnatural imagination where everyone is living elsewhere. Here, the relationship between subjectivity and passivity is swiftly and unconsciously altered. Within Chinese history, modernity has always been imposed from outside in, one could even say forced. The response was to build a nationalist subjectivity based upon the ideas of anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism and anti-colonialism, which were formulated in conjunction with the introduction of the western subjectivities of Christianity and Communism.
However, today in a period when the new slogan of globalization mounts another attack on a nation’s confidence, the discussion about the subjectivity and passivity of Chinese modernity, is dominated by the continual emphasis of the passive subjectivity of Chinese colonial history and the intrusion of foreign powers inherent within the identity politics of prevalent post-colonialism. The simple application of the dualism of insider outsider ignores the complexity of modernity and overlooks the persistent export and international impact of Chinese revolutionary history on the context of global modernity. What remains important is that we can find a contribution to the world in the raw material of historical and lived experience. The answer is not to care uselessly about the volume of voice, but rather to use that voice to say something substantive and find new possibilities in this process of self-interpretation and self-restructuring.
Truly violating buildings are the constructions of unstable subjectivities that turn what should be inside outside and vice versa. Modernity itself is not a violation; it is the experience of modernity that is modernity’s building code violation. The building code violations around the world and the supposed codes that they violate are all unique. Currently, China’s definition of building code violation is "those constructions which have not obtained a construction permit, those which violate given stipulations of a permit or those constructions which severely interfere with city zoning. 1) Constructions built either without permission and or without prior obtaining of necessary urban zoning permits or land use permits. 2) Unauthorized alteration of a construction which has obtained the necessary urban zoning permits. 3) Unauthorized alteration of the use of a construction. 4) Unauthorized turning of a temporary construction into a permanent construction."
The paradox of modernity is the need to reconfigure space and landscapes as to be conducive to the organization of production, only to find that what it has created is antagonistic to its needs at a future point in time. This process is enacted culturally by turning temporary constructions into permanent ones and permanent constructions into building code violations.