Time: Wednesday, January 29th, 12:30PM
Location: Campbell Hall, Exhibition C
Foundations of an Empire: The Chinese Imperial Exam and Its Architecture
For 1300 years, the keju, an imperial exam for selecting worthy talents to serve in the government, was a destiny-altering event in the life of an intellectual who aspired to hold office in China. Held every three years, at the district, provincial and state levels, the exam formed the backbone of the imperial government and was one of the most important “rituals” that helped hold together China’s society. My research examines the built spaces that were designed to accommodate this local and nation-wide process. The gongyuan, or examination compound, was an exclusive area that was only open to applicants, during the testing period. Such complexes often contained rows upon rows of small, cramped cells, each approximately 4 to 6 feet wide by 3 feet deep, where participants were isolated for the entire duration of the exam. The particular complex that I will focus on is Jiangnan Gongyuan, an imperial examination hall in Nanjing, established in 1168. My research will look at the physical evolution of the compound, along with its urban context, and will ask the question, how is Chinese thought conveyed through its architecture?
Anna Hong is a masters candidate for Architectural History at the University of Virginia. She is interested in the relationship of pre-modern Chinese architecture and Confucian thought, as well as the influence of western knowledge, religion, and colonization in East Asia. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon in 2011 and continues to cultivate her passion for design and art.
Shanghai's Foreign Architecture
My research focuses on domestic spaces built between 1842-1948 in the French and International Concessions of Shanghai. The Concessions were autonomous territories governed by foreigners. However, far from a stratified island of Western citizens, the concession inhabitants were diverse. They could be a Chinese merchant, a British businessman and/or opium trader, the family of an American diplomat, the child of a foreign missionary, an Indian policeman, a Russian socialite, and so on. Initially, economic success and prosperity allowed Westerners to construct homes that reminded them citizens of their cultural homeland. Eventually these homes also became markers of social status for Chinese sojourners who cast off traditional Confucian societal constraints in favor of a new, hybrid, modern identity amongst elite Shanghai businessmen. Inspiration was culled from a diverse selection of revival and modern Western architectural styles. The importation of familiar forms from the West like Tudoresque, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Art Deco gives a glimpse of the unique identity and community foreigner and Chinese sojourners hoped to construct in Shanghai.
Kelly Woods Schantz is a graduate student in Architectural History at the University of Virginia. Her current research focuses on the Shanghai urban history, with an eye to the negotiation of identity, tradition, and culture. She is also interested in subaltern studies, colonial and postcolonial studies, critical theory, historiography, and art history. Kelly is the Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. She holds a Bachelor's degree in French as well as Art History from the University of California, Davis.
Bevis Marks Synagogue and the Architecture of 17th Century London
Built in 1701 by a congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews living in London, Bevis Marks is the first synagogue to be constructed in England after the Jewish Resettlement in 1656. It is the oldest, continually used synagogue in Europe and exists as physical testimony to the stability of modern Jewish life in Britain. The unique context of Bevis Marks can be seen in its architecture, as debate regarding precise stylistic influences range from the congregation’s mother synagogue, the Esnoga in Amsterdam, popular depictions of Solomon’s temple, and Christopher Wren churches contemporary to Bevis Marks’ construction. The Sephardic congregation in London was unique, even within the Jewish diaspora, as many members came from families who had not openly practiced Judaism since before the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions in the 15th and 16th centuries. The community was made up of wealthy bankers and merchants, interested in publicly declaring themselves as Jews and Englishmen, during a period in Britain's history when ideas of religious tolerance and national identity were being redefined. Elizabeth spent time in London this past summer researching Wren and the synagogue's history, and visiting Bevis Marks, which has stood practically unchanged since its original construction.
Elizabeth Mitchell is a graduate student in the department of Architectural History at the School of Architecture. She is interested in the global movement of architectural conventions, as well as exploring the complicated nature of the conditions of diaspora and the translation of ideas across cultures and national borders. Her current research is on the cultural and stylistic influences on the synagogues of London following the Jewish Resettlement in 1656, and the historical significance of the early modern Jewish congregations in Northern Europe. She hold degrees in Architecture and Mathematics from the University of Washington.