Design Thesis Project 2016 - 2017
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MEMORY AND IMAGINATION: A Chinese theatre for Winnipeg

Yaoyao Li
Adviser: Lisa Landrum
 
China, like many countries around the world, is experiencing a cultural crisis. Many people in China feel disconnected to their own culture. The sense of cultural loss is even more profound for Chinese citizens living overseas. This thesis explores the role architecture plays in cultivating cultural identity and involvement. The thesis beings with questions: What does Chinese architecture and Chinatown mean for Winnipeg? And, how can architecture help address the sense of culture loss by creating new opportunities for cultural exchange.
 
A fundamental root of Chinese culture, which is deeply embedded but largely forgotten, is theatre. This thesis intends to bring this “root” back to life through an architectural design process of exploring traditional Chinese performances, theatre spaces, and relationships between the performers, stage and surrounding atmospheres.
 
According to cultural anthropologist (1870),“Culture... is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society...”1 The term “society” in Chinese is 社会 (she hui): 社(she) refers to temples, and 会(hui) refers to a clan community gathering.2 Chinese theatres were often built in ritual sites, near public temples and/or the ancestral temples of one’s clan community. Theatrical performances were not only entertainment but also a way of cultivating society through shared worship of gods and ancestors. Furthermore, Chinese theatres served as social gathering places—Chinese theatre is where Chinese Society began. Theatre architecture is not only a material cultural artifact, but helps sustain cultural practices and creates new relationships between people.
 
This design thesis will propose a Chinese theatre within the sociocultural context of Winnipeg. The goal is to transform Chinatown both architecturally and culturally, and to further explore how architecture can foster memories and imagination about China.

1. Avruch, K. Culture and Conflict Resolution. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998
2. Zhou, Shiba. A Brief Introduction to History of Chinese Drama. Shanghai: Commerce Institute Press, 1936

Images:
1. Image of Jinli Gate theatre, Jinli Commercial Pedestrian st., Chengdu city, China;
2. Site Plan of Jinli Gate theatre;
3. Proposal masterplan of Chinatown Winnipeg;
4. Study of Long Sleeve Dancing with drawing device exploration;
5. Detail of Jinli Gate theatre device;
6. Exploration of Jinli Gate theatre device with Chinatown Winnipeg context.

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