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The Buildings and Practices of Fukien Construction Bureau 1916-1949: a Study of Western Missionary Architecture in China and the Preservation of Its Contemporary Legacy

Lin, Bingyu

From 1840 to 1949, numerous remarkable buildings designed by Western missionaries in the service of religious organizations were erected in China. The architectural practice of Western missionaries substantially influenced the modernization process of architecture in China in all aspects including architectural style, material and construction technology, and the business methods associated with the practice of architecture. Their work – both in its day and in the legacy of buildings they designed and erected – provides tangible evidence of the important but often unrecognized cultural exchanges between Western and Chinese cultures. As a matter of both architectural and social history, it is regrettable that few of these buildings survive today due to political or social unrest and the rapid redevelopment of the built fabric in recent decades. Given the scarcity of this physical legacy and limited recognition of this history, it is essential that an immediate study of Western missionary architecture is conducted to reveal further its multilayered history and to promote its preservation.

This thesis endeavors to uncover the underappreciated history of a particular Western colonial building enterprise, the Fukien Construction Bureau (FCB). As an instrument of the Methodist Mission in China in the first half of the 20th century, the FCB provides evidence of the role architectural design played to affirm and extend the goals of the Methodist Mission. It produced hundreds of buildings, introduced methods of design and construction technology as well as engineering principles and business practices that greatly influenced the Chinese architectural system. By examining primary and secondary sources, field survey, and interviews, I trace the work of the FCB, document its enormous output, demonstrate its lasting impact on the practice of architecture in China to better understand the nature of its legacy in buildings and people. The few extant buildings as outward signs of this cultural legacy should be preserved. I also examine the Fuzhou Christian Union Hospital, a building demonstrates the ironic contrast between the high praise for its quality as a structure in the service of the Methodist and the neglect of its historical origin, as a case study. As one of the few remaining buildings designed and built by the FCB, I argue for the preservation of this hospital for its intrinsic significance as one of the best hospital structures of its time as well as its associative value with the FCB.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Bentel, Paul L.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 7, 2020