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Understanding Preservation Methods at the Memorial Cemetery for Heroes of the Revolution in Nanjing by Henry K. Murphy: A Study on Adaptations and Preservation Strategies for the Future at Republican-era Heritage

Cheng, Huanlun

Nanjing was the political and cultural capital in the early twentieth century (1912, 1927-1949) for the Republic of China during the period now known as the Republican era. The city already had a profound historical background with many significant sites, but the government ambitiously sought to turn the city into a modern metropolis. Inevitably, the need to reimagine historic sites arose as a common issue and architects from other parts of the world introduced modern architectural methods, including design, structural systems, urban planning, and more to this ancient city that eventually contributed to the process of shaping Chinese architecture in modern times. However, not all of the legacies in the Republican era that had glorious pasts and far-reaching influences are currently well understood, perceived, or preserved because of social change. Henry Killam Murphy, an American architect who designed projects first in the U.S. and then practiced in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and China, played an active role in this transitioning period. He and his Chinese mentees, who later came to be the first generation of modern architects in China, were among the most important figures in the region and completed massive urban-scaled projects in the city.

This thesis argues for the preservation a highly significant but overlooked project and employs it as an excellent example of other Republican-era heritage, with the ultimate goal to facilitate future preservation actions through the creation of an analytical framework specifically created for this type of heritage. The thesis by from analyzing the National Memorial Cemetery for Heroes of the Revolution (1929-1932) in Nanjing, one of Murphy’s most successful and final projects that reflects his adaptive method for working with existing historic buildings in its advanced form. The cemetery complex is comprised of six significant architectural nodes locating on a central axis; the well-rounded master plan included other essential aspects such as landscape and transportation. Multiple strategies of preservation were applied in the design to adapt existing structures on site that belonged to an ancient temple, Linggu Temple, which had a centuries-long history. The Memorial Cemetery was significant not only for its architectural values but also for its multi-layered identity as a public memorial commissioned in 1929 by the political leader Jiang Jieshi. Additionally, as one of the affiliated projects of Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, the cemetery was adapted on the site of a historic temple complex to commemorate the martyrs sacrificed in North Expedition (1926-27) and before the Second Sino- Japanese War (1938-1945) in early military conflicts. Despite the project’s outstanding cultural, historic, design, and preservation significance, it remains in the shadow of other well-regarded projects Murphy designed in China as well as the significant Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in its vicinity, designed by Murphy’s mentee Lu Yanzhi. Nonetheless, only limited attention and effort have been devoted to the preservation of Chinese Republican-era heritage, though interdisciplinary studies have made progress in the last decade.

Through the lens of preservation, this thesis seeks to fill in the gap in understanding Republican heritage from 1912-1949. The Memorial Cemetery is used as a case study to evaluate the preservation strategies applied at each component of the complex by Murphy. Each structure at the site is then given corresponding preservation suggestions for the future. The idea of a “strategy” is introduced as a collective set of preservation methods and actions as these buildings continue to age and require a framework that considers both the original preservation strategy that Murphy employed and rational visions for the future. These preservation strategies were specifically developed to deal with typical situations for Republican heritage, leading to the creation of a new evaluation tool that helps determine future preservation strategies. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to better understand and preserve the Republican-era Heritage in a broader sense.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 7, 2020