March 15, 2019
61 b&w illus., 14 maps
10.00 Inches (US)
7.00 Inches (US)
1.85 Pounds (US)
$65.00 USD, £52.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Improvised City

Architecture and Governance in Shanghai, 1843-1937

For nearly one hundred years, Shanghai was an international treaty port in which the extraterritorial rights of foreign governments shaped both architecture and infrastructure, and it merits examination as one of the most complex and influential urban environments of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Improvised City illuminates the interplay between the city's commercial nature and the architectural forms and practices designed to manage it in Shanghai's three municipalities: the International Settlement, the French Concession, and the Chinese city.

This book probes the relationship between architecture and extraterritoriality in ways that challenge standard narratives of Shanghai's built environment, which are dominated by stylistic analyses of major landmarks. Instead, by considering a wider range of town halls, post offices, municipal offices, war memorials, water works, and consulates, Cole Roskam traces the cultural, economic, political, and spatial negotiations that shaped Shanghai's growth.

Improvised City repositions Shanghai within architectural and urban transformations that reshaped the world over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It responds to growing academic interest in the history of modern and contemporary Chinese architecture and urbanism; the ongoing, shifting relationship between sovereignty and space; and the variegated forms of urban exceptionality—such as special economic zones, tax-free trading spheres, and commercial enclaves—that continue to shape cities.

About the Author

Cole Roskam is associate professor of architectural history at the University of Hong Kong.The Journal of Architecture


"The scope of the book is impressive...It will be of great interest to urban and architectural historians and to China studies specialists seeking a fresh look at Shanghai."—China Quarterly

"[D]rawing upon fresh archival material on building forms, technologies, urban infrastructures, and architectural events in Shanghai, Roskam's book provides an enhanced understanding of how urban spaces took shape as a result of competing domestic and international forces in a politically and spatially fragmented treaty port. The book is carefully researched and well-illustrated."—Planning Perspectives

"Packed with extensive archival material and fascinating narratives, Improvised City is a highly recommended read for Shanghai historians interested in extraterritoriality. It is also very inspiring for architectural researchers and designers who are interested in the interplay of politics, legal systems, and architecture."—The Journal of Architecture

"[M]eticulously researched and beautifully crafted study...provides significant new insights into the relationship between architecture, governance, and law."—China Review International

"This well-organized book indeed explains that Shanghai and modern Chinese architecture are as they are because of the interplay between architecture and government."—Architectural Histories


"An important contribution to the growing literature related to Shanghai's architectural and urban history. Impressive in its scope, research depth, and clear articulation of key events, people, and places that epitomize Shanghai's remarkable metamorphoses."—Jeffrey W. Cody, senior project specialist, Building and Sites Department, Getty Conservation Institute

"Roskam explores the formative role of architecture in establishing and transforming the cultural and political foundations of the foreign concessions in Shanghai."—Peter J. Carroll, author of Between Heaven and Modernity: Reconstructing Suzhou, 1895–1937

"A carefully researched and beautifully crafted study of Shanghai's colorful and eventful architectural history. This book will fascinate anyone seeking to learn more about the distinctive built environment of one of the world's most dynamic cities."—Elizabeth J. Perry, director, Harvard-Yenching Institute

"Going beyond the dichotomies of the West versus China and modernity versus tradition, as well as the biased narratives of colonialism and nationalism, this book is an important contribution to the modern history of Chinese architecture."—Lai Delin, professor of art history, University of Louisville

University of Washington Press


9780295744780 : improvised-city-roskam
304 Pages
$65.00 USD

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