Thursday, July 29th, 2010
Yunnan Allen, a designer from our Los Angeles studio, was one of two annual winners of HMC’s internal [X]ref Travel Fellowship. The program and annual competition for HMC employees, was established to expose individuals to experiences that connect them to a wider span of influence, with the hope that these experiences will result in personal growth and creative renewal that is reflected into all aspects of their lives. Each winner receives an extra week of paid time off and a $4,000 travel stipend to use to go anywhere in the world. For her journey, Yunnan proposed a cultural exploration of the musical history of China. We’ve asked Yunnan to share her experience and how her travels have influenced her work at HMC.
Modern China represents a cultural juxtaposition of the old and the new. What I find so fascinating about the current cultural condition of China is that it’s at an ephemeral junction between tradition and progress. No previous culture has seen such rapid transformation and how its people are coping with or embracing this transformation is that much more amazing.
My plan was to focus my visit to China on different types of music as manifestations of China’s cultural complexity. And of course, there’s no escaping the architecture.
On the music tour, I attended a Beijing Opera, which was a frenzy of painted faces, elaborate customs, high-pitched voices and Kung-fu fighting. I had the pleasure of experiencing a Naxi ancient music concert performed by a group of aged gentlemen in traditional suits in a dim wooden hall. It is the exact same notes that have been echoing below the Himalaya for more than 700 years. I also attended a “violin English” lesson with a dozen pre-school students. Seeing first hand how at ease they are with the Western instrument while being taught partially in a foreign language, there’s no doubt to me how globally integrated China’s future will be.
Along the way, I visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Bird Nest, Shanghai Expo and two small town/villages tucked in the mountainous southwest. The new architecture speaks of haste and eagerness to stride forward. However the shear presence of such extraordinary historic monuments such as the Great Wall suggests that no matter how fast China progresses, the history and tradition that has survived for centuries will always be imprinted in the national subconscious. The extent and influence of global culture is transforming this ancient civilization at surprising speeds. But even more phenomenal is how quickly the local people are adapting to this transformation.
The strongest impression I took away from my journey was witnessing how versatile and adaptable people can be and how architecture and the built environment help shape the culture and history of a nation. I gained a renewed sense of pride and responsibility for the architecture profession. Tags: China, Music, xref, Yunnan Allen A cultural juxtaposition between tradition and progress