Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Reinterpreting Chinese Cultural Imperatives Within the Contemporary Urban Context Through the Integration of Natural Elements

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:28 authored by Zhang, Xuezhu (Cissy)

As Chinese contemporary architecture is entering into a new era along with rapid economic development, this is an opportunity for young Chinese designers to start to translate their own Chinese cultural perspectives into contemporary architecture. This thesis uses an iconic Chinese architectural symbol, the ‘Chinese Garden’, as a vehicle to explore this opportunity to re-interpret the traditional Chinese garden in relation to contemporary Chinese urban culture. The challenge is to investigate how a contemporary garden could be inspired by the philosophy and principles of traditional Chinese gardens within a contemporary Western contextual environment. This thesis explores four major Chinese garden types and their architectural characteristics, how their imperative cultural reflections of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Fengshui Principles, Chinese landscape Painting and legend of ‘Round Heaven and Square Earth’ influence the traditional Chinese garden making. This thesis analyzes the qualities of the existing site, Frank Kitts Park, and it discusses the important ‘positives’ and potential ‘negatives’ that exists on the site. This design thesis will take the ‘negatives’ and translate them into positives through Chinese garden making theories and philosophies. While the Dunedin Chinese garden decided to hide the western urban context with a surrounding wall, this design thesis seeks to embrace the surrounding western urban context and incorporate it into the garden as a means of demonstrating how traditional gardens can flourish within contemporary times. This thesis challenges how a contemporary and western context can be incorporated with the principles of a traditional Chinese garden and how existing urban elements can be interpreted as landscape elements by translating traditionally soft plant elements into architectural elements. Just as solid walls are used to enclose the perimeter of traditional style gardens (both imperial gardens and private gardens), the contemporary garden should also consider the application of physical walls in order to divide space (both exterior and interior) and thus create multiple discreet spaces which may be considered as an inner and outer world with a garden boundary at ground level; a spiritual inner world is found within the garden and a literal outer world remains outside of the garden walls.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Interior Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Brown, Daniel K.