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Foreign Architects in China


Foreign architects have played a very visible role in China's recent architectural development. Their visibility is due to involvements in to the construction of landmarks for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. They brought a new architectural language by introducing bold examples of modern architecture.There is a growing market for foreign architects to operate, as they are asked for their design expertise - but seldom have the opportunities to be fully responsible for the outcome of their design proposals. Oftentimes the notion of architecture as a cultural product is linked to the presence of foreign architects in China.

A couple of changes in the regulations have happened regarding foreign architects operating in China. In 2002 new laws have been implemented making it easier for architects to work. As a WTO commitment, foreign architects have been able to operate with local partners since 2002, but only by the end of 2006 were allowed to have their own wholly foreign-funded architectural design institutes. Leaving foreign architects wishing to operate in China with two main paths: A) collaborate with a Chinese architecture institute, or B) set up an architecture Foreign Invested Enterprise (Architecture FIE) in the form of (1) equity joint venture, (2) cooperative joint venture, (3) wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFO) or (4) part equity acquisition of an existing Chinese architecture institute.

Foreign architects have so far played two roles: one, their projects help bring Chinese cities on an international level – as branding foreign design as distinct/creative are key concepts in China (and LDI's are less capable of this); two, showing a gap between national/international aspirations, local benefits and international perspectives. Inasmuch as they put the notion of local contemporary architecture to the test, and have occasionally raised controversy on Chinese design values.