Urban Adaptation

Emily Force

Stacy Seiler and Aaron Fry

Design Studio


Chinatown in New York City may seem frenetic at first glance, but in order to obtain inspiration, one has to dissect the inner workings of such a place. I was given the task of focusing on the history of Chinatown; I mainly focused on the architecture that I saw in the city. There were many differences in the style of architecture compared to the Chinatown I have seen in Chicago. For instance Manhattan’s Chinatown has an extremely New York inspired aesthetic of architecture, with its fire escapes and towering buildings. Occasionally, I would see pagodas that would juxtapose the boxy style of the New-York-style buildings. I wanted my garment to symbolize the juxtaposition between the two styles of architecture.

To foster this juxtaposition, the top of my garment represents the angular structure of the pagodas. To construct these silhouettes , I took Chinese newspaper and folded each piece in accordion-like shapes. I glued each piece on the top to almost create a pagoda-like structure, without compromising a flattering silhouette that is being casted onto the body. The sharp triangular shapes created by the newspaper are a reference to the pagodas. I had the sharper ends of the newspaper pointing out from the center of the blouse to create stagnant movement.

With the bottom, I wanted to create a boxy silhouette that represented New York style architecture. At first, I wanted to deconstruct an umbrella that I bought in Chinatown to use as ribbing for the skirt. But with the time constraint and the amount of detail I wanted to put into the panels, I opted for a simpler route. The skirt is made out of wooden sticks that I bent and secured with wire. Then, I cut out cardboard panels for the skirt and painted them to resemble blue and white china. I used some of the photographs I took in Chinatown as a reference for the architecture. On many of these china dish ware pieces are paintings of Chinese architecture and nature. These pieces were especially popular in the Ming and Qing Dynasties because they were highly revered by the Imperial court. Lastly, to symbolize the two styles of architecture clashing and melding together, I took more of the folded pieces of Chinese newspaper and have them breaking through the skirt. The triangular shapes of the newspaper clashing with the boxy cardboard symbolizes how Chinatown combined these two styles of architecture even though they were divergent. The juxtaposition between the two aesthetics of architecture create a distinctive style.

Leave a reply

Skip to toolbar