China and the National Stadium in Costa Rica, 2007–11. Architectural History 63. English, 2020.
The delivery of stadiums — either as gifts or as concessional loans — is part of a strategy that the People’s Republic of China has been implementing since the mid-1960s in its diplomatic relations with Asian, African, Caribbean and South Pacific countries. The National Stadium in Costa Rica, designed and built from 2007 to 2011, is a prime example of China’s diplomatic drive through the cultural-geopolitical spaces of the ‘Third World’. It reveals the political, financial and diplomatic operations at stake, the kind of roles architects are expected to perform and the forms of architectural debate (if any) they elicit. The stadium also brought with it the visions, interests and weaknesses of specific architectural practices related to Chinese foreign-aid projects, which involved the replication of identical forms across continents. The building highlights the interrelated processes that China has developed over decades through diplomacy and financing, the construction industry, public administration, architectural know-how and global trade.
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Chinese architectural practices in Central America: The design and construction of the National Stadium in Costa Rica. Commentary for SOAS China Institute University of London, 13 July, 2021