It’s pretty difficult for a normal Chinese person to travel outside the borders of their country. I won’t get into details but let’s say that mother China loves its citizens so much that it makes leaving the country a little nightmare.
What happens is that the culture of design, image and iconic in general is built on one side by a desperate research of roots within a Chinese tradition that has been erased during the Cultural Revolution, and on the other side by information and images that come from books, internet and magazines, sometimes controlled by the government, sometimes written by authors that never experienced or seen what they are actually talking about.
These last information are usually passed from media to media with the consequent leak of precision, extrapolated from the context or worse misunderstood form the language lack.
Do you know the big misunderstanding about Italian ingredients? Why Pepperoni is Salame (Sausage) but it’s the Italian word for Pepper, and what the hell is Salami? The analogy looks perfect for the perception of styles here.
Thousands of books about interior design talk about Styles: there’s an non precisely clear Western style, a mysterious European Style, an undiscovered French Style and the incredibly popular Italian style. Now how to manage these styles is very tricky, for example how to squeeze 2000 years of the most diversified continent of the world in a summary of archetypes is just funny. And here where the confusion pops out: Greek columns are mixed with Venetian Gondolas, fake Barcelona chairs discuss with Deco lamps on an English wallpaper background, all supervised by improbable hunt trophies on the wall.
Put everything in a wok and cook it mixing sometimes with other styles. The good brave Chinese architect, in fact, can mix styles with courage, to be diverse he could for example add a bit of Western Style, for example (basically the Abramo Lincoln office, so everything you can see is wood).
Useless is trying to explain that style for us is not a word, the meaning is so complex because you can’t mix Baroque, Reinassance and Minimalism, because geographically, temporally, socially we are dealing with different things.
Italian style is a topic its own: the average Chinese wants to believe that China was the center of the world for six thousand years, so secretly he wants to see some popular Italian symbols mixed with Chinese habits.
And here you see copies of La Gioconda with strange Asian eyes, bamboo chairs with wild lion legs, Gondolas with dragon’s wings.
One day a famous designer showed me pictures of a house he did for a wealthy client on a high floor of a steel and glass skyscraper. Of course the apartment looked like a Russian Bordello, but imagine my surprise seeing a fake marble column in the corner of the living room, attached to a gypsum plasterboard ceiling.
I tried to explain him that a column is usually put under an arch and I took him in a journey in the magical world of Greek pillars.
He tried to justify himself saying that he saw a column in one of my works, but I told him that in that case the pillar was already there because the building was dated 1400…
More than embarrassed he revealed that he thought the the column was just an object, like a sculpture, that you can put wherever you want and he felt that that part of the room (between the motorized glass window and the air conditioning machine) was a little bit “empty”.
Now what will happen when these thousands of Chinese clients that today are buying styles for their homes and hotels will really go to Europe and discover what the have been propinated by their brave Architect? In China there’s still death penalty, the hope is that the consultant will be able to avoid it.