A Collective Narrative: Documentary Architectural Photography of the Great Hall of the People

By Haode Sun.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 7, 2017 $US5.00

With China’s public-private partnership reform completed in 1956, a new historical era was established when state-owned architectural design institutes undertook entire design commitments pursuant to the planned economy. Thus, architectural photography in China became one part of this collective design process and formed a reader group consisting of professional architects and officers, not clients. The Great Hall of the People, built to be a monument to the achievements of this new country, was a great architectural model created by this collective design system. Like many great structures in the world, the entire construction process was the subject of detailed photographic documentation that provided a spatial narrative of this collective architectural event. The systematic documentary of the Great Hall was not a representation as a symbol of consumption but a visualization process conveying architectural meanings that were emphasized by the collective consciousness. This article studies the initial architectural documentary photography of the Great Hall of the People produced by Kaiyuan Hou from 1958 to 1959 and analyzes the collective narrative of this imaging sequence through three aspects: collective event, intensified readers, and a “roaming” narrative structure.

Keywords: The Great Hall of the People, Documentary Photography, Collective Narrative, Ten Great Constructions, Roaming, Spatial Narrative, State-owned Institute of Architectural Design, Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, Beijing Old City, Monumental Architecture

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.67-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 7, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.538MB)).

Haode Sun

PhD Candidate, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China