Refinement and China

One of the most interesting things to do is to learn a lot of details about a specific field - after this, things which were boring become interesting.

Learning about local plants converts a blob of green into hundreds of interesting, distinct plants.

Learning about architecture reveals the history of an area - you see shapes and things you never realized before, how new materials changed the way things were built over time. What we see today is the product of hundreds of years of law, choices, wars, and innovation.

Chinese Buildings

But in China, this doesn't work. You can't learn about the history of architecture visible in daily life, because there is very little history. It was all mostly produced by guys who didn't care at all how it looked or felt - it was just housing. It was all done in a standardized format, ignoring most factors (appearance, the surroundings, appropriateness of colors). It also mostly ignores technical innovation, or workforce abilities, or local historical design. It's all concrete, made in a really crappy, shoddy, craftless way, by migrants who will not live there and have no reason to care.

That's architecture, but the same thing applies to a lot of other aspects of life in China. Everything's done by the book, from far away, and designed to serve very few goals - cheapness or social goals seem to be the main thing.

So there is very little refinement to do. Diversity is controlled at the source - the first instinct for a designer is to look at the handbook for how things are done, and do that.

Most variation in things you see out comes from carelessness, corruption, or incompetence

Rather than as a response to the environment, or as a choice of how to balance cost and function / time to complete, or as a response to local history, or as a response to local conditions / families who would live there. There are so many things that bad Chinese construction ignores.

Park Design

There seems to be a CCP handbook on how to design parks in China.

There are a few nice parks in Beijing, though. The park around the Temple of Heaven is really nicely done, and more like a european park with real beauty and thought put into it. And outside the east gate of the temple of heaven there's a big open field with some trees on it, without any of the evil china-park-stuff in it.

Road Design

This one is not as universal as the similarity of parks - outside of big cities you can get real, random little roads that haven't been modernized yet. This one is also not as bad - the upside for standardizing roads is saved lives, and greater efficiency.

Cheap Apartment Buildings

There is some variation but it's all functional.

There is some history to it - older ones do look different. And this is also somewhat functional. Providing better homes for people is a worthy goal.