Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
Diane Al Shihabi
Interior design and architecture of the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1911) is one of the most complex and glorious periods in Chinese design history. Though founded on prior aesthetic achievements, it successfully built upon and transformed them. Major constructions during this period included the Shenyang Imperial Palace Complex (1625-1783), the expansion and repair of the Ming Forbidden City (1655-1911), and the Summer Palace (1750-1902).
This thesis focuses on the Shenyang Imperial Palace Complex in China and the Telephone Exchange Building in San Francisco, CA, to understand 1) the design and artistic characteristics of China’s early Ch’ing Dynasty interior and 2) how they were interpreted when reconstructed in America. To explain the relationship, during the period of Emperor Kangxi Qianlong, the Ch’ing Dynasty government started to trade with foreign countries. In the later part of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Western cultures influenced Chinese interior design and construction, resulting in a nonlinear progression of design and a process of transformation. During this period many Chinese laborers moved to the Western world, including America, and in particular in San Francisco, and spread Ch’ing’s building design and construction ideas either intentionally or unconsciously.
This thesis research model is a comparative case study analysis and the research method integrates material culture analysis, iconographical analysis, archival analysis, and compare and contrast. Material culture analysis was executed through site visits, photo and video documentation, direct observation, artifact analysis and Rapport’s culture theory.
Findings show that the style of early Ch’ing Dynasty exteriors and interiors are fusions of Man, Han, Mongolian, and Tibetan arts and craftsmanship. Ch’ing interior design emphasized splendidness and luxury, and was overly enthusiastic about details. In contrast, Chinese buildings in San Francisco’s Chinatown paid little attention to detail, focusing instead on color and large forms believed to be the most important representations of Chinese building and culture. Design attainments during the early Ch’ing Dynasty included: 1) practical articulation of spatial organization, interior form, and construction, 2) expansion of furniture and furnishing types, and crafts production, 3) formation of unified artistic composition of furnishing and interior decoration and, 4) reflection of entirety and humanity through interior design and construction.
Importantly, this research provides insight into today’s global architectural and interior expression, and the phenomenon of modernization, while retaining traditional cultural symbols of Chinese and other nations’ traditional cultural symbols.
Yang, Liu, "Design characteristics of China’s early Ch’ing Dynasty exteriors and interiors, and their reinterpretation in America" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 14902.