You Can’t Change China, China Changes You

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John van de Water
Designed by Studio Joost Grootens
Translation by George Hall

272 pp / 220 x 140 mm / paperback
price € 24.50
ISBN 978 90 6450 762 5
published 2012, available
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Nederlandse editie: Je kunt China niet veranderen, China verandert jou.

Young, enthusiastic and ambitious - this was Dutch architect John van de Water when setting off to a rapidly modernizing China in 2004. His intention was to put into practice in China the internationally recognized ideas of NEXT architects, the firm in which he is a partner.
The years that followed were hectic, with more than a million square metres’ worth of projects realized on Chinese soil. The boundaries of his Western frame of reference constantly needed reviewing in the light of the Chinese context. He encountered a wide range of conditions and situations informing the relationship between Western and Chinese thinking: incomprehension, confrontation, misunderstandings, acceptance, awareness, consensus and, ultimately, mutual benefit.
You Can’t Change China, China Changes You is Van de Water’s personal, disarming and occasionally hilarious account of this compelling and confrontational quest for an authentic architecture. Are Western design skills able to evolve in a cultural context as radically different as that of China?

Made possible by the Netherlands Architecture Fund and the Fonds BKVB.


Gripping from the start and reads very much like a novel.
Hans Teerds on, 16 February 2012

Rather than China becoming more like the West, the West will have to become more like China! This is echoed in architect John Van de Water’s account of seven years working in China....
James Pallister,, April 5th 2012

Extremely interesting, a very fine book!
Steve Koeter, , May 2nd 2012

Highly recommended, the book is a a formidable page-turner telling the story of a five-year long architectural discovery in and of China... Change you can believe in. Change you can construct. A publication of interest for anyone in or related to the architecture profession.
Bert de Muynck,, May 16th 2012