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Gifting Architecture: China and the National Stadium in Costa Rica, 2007–11

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 December 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.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 2020

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1 Prakāsh, Vikramāditya, ‘Third World Modernism, or Just Modernism: Towards a Cosmopolitan Reading of Modernism’, epilogue in Third World Modernism: Architecture, Development and Identity, ed. Lu, Duanfang (London, 2011), pp. 255–67Google Scholar; Mawdsley, Emma, ‘The Changing Geographies of Foreign Aid and Development Cooperation: Contributions from Gift Theory’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, new ser., 37 (2012), pp. 256–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bell, P. M. H. and Gilbert, Mark, ‘Reflection: The Third World’, in Bell, P. M. H., The World Since 1945: An International History (London, 2017), pp. 218–23Google Scholar. All Chinese terms have been rendered in the standard hanyu pinyin system of romanisation and have been italicised in accordance with scholarly convention. I have used simplified Chinese characters and followed Chinese surname order, unless they are habitually rendered otherwise in previous publications. Some titles in English provided by Chinese journals have been lightly reworded.

2 Óscar Arias Sánchez was president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010. The vice-minister of health and sport, Osvaldo Pandolfo, claims to have suggested to Arias the idea of approaching the Chinese during a meeting at the Ministry of National Planning and Political Economy, during which several petition options were discussed: interview with the author, 2 November 2015.

3 Information on official petitions for construction projects is scant, as these negotiations are confidential in nature. It has been asserted that, in Africa, solicitations are a usual practice. However, not every proposal is necessarily honoured. For example, China rejected Costa Rica's 2015 request for a new public debt bond sale (in this case publicly announced) equivalent to five times the cost of the stadium. Diego Arguedas Ortiz, ‘Gobierno busca que China compre deuda pública’, Semanario Universidad, 16 September 2015, (accessed on 15 April 2018); Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (New York, 2009), p. 349. Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Los caminos menos transitados: La administración Arias Sánchez y la redefinición de la política exterior de Costa Rica, 2006–2010 (San José, 2013), pp. 79–140.

4 Ministerio Relaciones Exteriores y Culto de Costa Rica, Memoria Institutional 2008–2009, (accessed on 3 February 2018), pp. 137–50 (pp. 148–50); Gabriela Contreras, ‘Costa Rica ha recibido más de 26 donaciones en 7 años’,, 1 July 2013, (accessed on 30 March 2020).

5 These benefits were realised when China supported Costa Rica as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Friedrich Wu and Koh De Wei, ‘From Financial Assets to Financial Statecraft: The Case of China and Emerging Economies of Africa and Latin America’, Journal of Contemporary China, 23 (2014), pp. 781–803. See also Thaís Córdoba and Stefanía Paladini, ‘La política exterior de la nueva China y avances en las relaciones comerciales China-Costa Rica’, Revista Relaciones Internacionales, 84 (2012), pp. 335–62; Joseph Y. S. Cheng and Thaís Córdoba, ‘The Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with China: A Study of Costa Rica's Rationale’, Journal of Comparative Asian Development, 8 (2009), pp. 333–64; Mario E. Ramírez, ‘Lucha por el reconocimiento diplomático entre China y Taiwán: Las paradojas de Costa Rica y Nicaragua (2006–2008)’, in America Latina y El Caribe-China: Relaciones Políticas e Internacionales, coord. José I. Martínez Cortés (Mexico, 2013), pp. 363–86.

6 Monica DeHart, ‘China-Costa Rica Infrastructure Projects: Laying the Groundwork for Development?’, in Building Development for a New Era: China's Infrastructure Projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, ed. Enrique Dussel Peters, Ariel C. Armony and Shoujun Cui (Mexico, 2018), pp. 3–23; Sergio Villena Fiengo, ‘Del fútbol y otros demonios fútbol, religión y nacionalismo en Costa Rica’, Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, 35–36 (2009–2010), pp. 137–47.

7 Francisco Enríquez Solano, Taiwán-Costa Rica 60 años de amistad (San José, 2005).

8 Stagno Ugarte, Los caminos menos transitados, p. 95. To date, San José is the only Latin American city to have received a stadium gift, though there are comparable projects built between 2003 and 2008 in the nearby Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, among others. See Hong Zhou, China's Foreign Aid: 60 Years in Retrospect (Singapore, 2017).

9 According to a Costa Rican adviser to the Taiwan embassy, a conference centre came under consideration, but when consulted by Taiwanese diplomats he recommended financing the extension of a hospital in the capital, which had been partially burnt by a fire (pers. comm., 28 May 2018). There is a much wider story to be written on the many instances of stratified stop-start construction that resulted from this diplomatic race across the Global South. The presidential palace in Malawi is a case in point: it was under construction by Taiwan in the midst of the diplomatic turn in 2007, at which point the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design took over the project. It has not progressed beyond foundation level. See Dou Zhi 窦志, ‘Jia qi youyi zhi qiao: BIAD di qi sheji suo yuanwai sheji huigu’ 架起友谊之桥:BIAD第七设计所援外设计回顾 [‘Building the Bridge of Friendship: A Review of the International Aid Projects of BIAD's Seventh Design Department’], Jianzhu chuangzuo 建筑创作 [ArchiCreation], 4 (2010), pp. 116–23.

10 Other categorisations distinguish between sport activities as ‘cultural aid’ and investment in infrastructure as ‘financial aid’. According to Xinhua/China's State Council Information Office, by the end of 2009, 2025 foreign-aid projects were completed, of which only 85 corresponded to sports facilities. See ‘China's Foreign Aid’, Xinhua News Agency, 21 April 2011, (accessed on 15 September 2015).

11 Guo Xiuyuan 郭休元, ‘Woguo yuanwai tiyuchang, guan jianzhu’ 我国援外体育场, 馆建筑 [‘The Architecture of our Country's Foreign Aid Stadiums and Gymnasiums’], Tiyu wenhua dao kan 体育文化导刊 [Sports Culture Guide], 1 (1983), pp. 13–18; Yu Dawei and Yuan Lei 俞大伟, 袁雷, ‘Woguo tiyu duiwai yuanzhu de lishi huigu’ 我国体育对外援助的历史回顾 [‘An Historical Review of our Country's Foreign Aid in Sport], Beijing tiyu daxue xuebao 北京体育大学学报 [Journal of Beijing Sport University], 33.8 (2010), pp. 39–45.

12 Sun Zonglie 孙宗列, ‘Cong zhongguo zhong yuan de jingwai sheji kan guonei jianzhushi de guoji shijian’ 从中国中元的境外设计看国内建筑师的国际实践 [‘The International Practices of Domestic Architects as Seen Through IPPR's Designs Abroad’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 38–41.

13 John F. Cooper, China's Foreign Aid and Investment Diplomacy, 3 vols (London, 2016), I, p. 16; Donald Bobiash, South-South Aid: How Developing Countries Help Each Other (New York, 1992), pp. 142–43; Brautigam, The Dragon's Gift, p. 104.

14 Samantha Custer et al., Ties That Bind: Quantifying China's Public Diplomacy and Its ‘Good Neighbour’ Effect (Williamsburg, VA, 2018), p. 13.

15 Harold Leandro, ‘Haremos un estadio moderno’, La Nación, 4 April 2008, (accessed on 19 June 2015).

16 Guido Sáenz, ‘El Estadio Nacional’, La Nación, 4 August 2008, (accessed on 10 February 2016)

17 Agustín Salas Madrigal, Historia del deporte en Costa Rica (San José, 1951); Carlos Zamora Hernández, La Sabana, un parque con historia (San José, 2009), pp. 82–93.

18 Carlomagno Chacón Araya (ICODER architect), interview with the author, 29 October 2015.

19 Daniel M. Abramson, Obsolescence: An Architectural History (Chicago and London, 2016).

20 ‘El Estadio Nacional: La demolición’, La Nación, (accessed on 12 April 2018).

21 You-tien Hsing, The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China (Oxford, 2010), pp. 72, 108–09.

22 Rachel Will, ‘China's Stadium Diplomacy’, World Policy Journal, 29.2 (2012), pp. 36–43.

23 Lauren Johnston and Marina Rudyak, ‘China's “Innovative and Pragmatic” Foreign Aid: Shaped By and Now Shaping Globalisation’, in China's New Sources of Economic Growth: Human Capital, Innovation and Technological Change, 2 vols, ed. Ligang Song, Ross Garnaut, Cai Fang and Lauren Johnston (Canberra, 2017), pp. 431–51; Brautigam, The Dragon's Gift, pp. 110–13.

24 Emma Mawdsley, From Recipients to Donors: Emerging Powers and the Changing Development Landscape (London, 2012), pp. 84–85.

25 Mawdsley, From Recipients to Donors, pp. 84–85.

26 Yu Dawei 俞大伟, ‘Cong wuchang dao hezuo: zhongguo tiyu duiwai yuanzhu zhudao fangshi zhuanbian tanjiu’ 从无偿到合作:中国体育对外援助主导方式转变探究 [‘From Free Aid to Cooperation: Investigating the Shift in the Dominant Mode of Chinese Sport Foreign Aid’], Tianjin tiyu xueyuan xuebao 天津体育学院学报 [Journal of Tianjin University of Sport], 31.2 (2016), pp. 112–18 (p. 114).

27 Yu, ‘Cong wuchang dao hezuo’, p. 116.

28 Cole Roskam, ‘Non-Aligned Architecture: China's Designs on and in Ghana and Guinea, 1955–92’, Architectural History, 58 (2015), pp. 261–91 (p. 274); Cole Roskam, ‘Zhongguo jianzhu zai Feizhou’ 中国建筑在非洲 [‘Chinese Architecture in Africa’], Shidai jianzhu 时代建筑 [Time+Architecture], 2 (2018), p. 58.

29 Alberto Asquer, ‘How Can Developing Countries Pay for Infrastructure Development?’, SOAS blog, 7 January 2019, (accessed on 10 January 2019).

30 Ke Shanbei, Zhu Zhiyong and Fei Tainxiang 柯善北, 朱志勇, 费天翔, ‘Zhongnan jianzhu sheji yuan yuan ge sheji fang'an zhongbiao’ 中南建筑设计院援哥设计方案中标 [‘Central South Architectural Design Institute Wins Bid for Costa Rican Aid Design Proposal’], Zhongguo jianshe bao 中国建设报 [China Construction News], 22 March 2008, p. 1.

31 For the Xi Jinping era, see ‘Sun Wenguang: Chinese Activist's Live Interview Shut Down by Police’, BBC News, 3 August 2018, (accessed on 16 May 2020).

32 Prakāsh, ‘Third World Modernism, or Just Modernism’.

33 Mawdsley, ‘The Changing Geographies of Foreign Aid and Development Cooperation’, p. 263.

34 Guangdong Sheng Jianzhu Sheji Yan Jiu Yuan 广东省建筑设计研究 [Guangdong Architectural Design and Research Institute], ‘Saineijia'er Youyi Tiyuchang’ 塞内加尔友谊体育场 [‘Senegal Friendship Stadium’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 2.6 (1987), pp. 26–27 (p. 27).

35 Zou Denong 邹德侬, Zhongguo xiandai jianzhu shi 中国现代建筑史 [A History of Modern Chinese Architecture] (Tianjin, 2001); Guanghui Ding and Charlie Q. L. Xue, ‘China's Architectural Aid: Exporting a Transformational Modernism’, Habitat International, 47 (2015), pp. 136–47 (this article, with some additions, was published as a chapter in Charlie Q. L. Xue and Guanghui Ding, A History of Design Institutes in China (New York, 2018),; Zhang Li 张利, ed., Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015); Roskam, ‘Non-Aligned Architecture’; Wei Chang, Charlie Xue and Guanghui Ding, ‘Architecture of Diplomacy: Chinese Construction Aid in Asia, 1950–1976’, ARENA, 4.1 (2019), pp. 1–16.

36 Roskam, ‘Non-Aligned Architecture’; Roskam, ‘Zhongguo jianzhu zai Feizhou’, p. 59.

37 On the use of renderings in Chinese architectural practice and its relation to the pictorial effect, see Doreen Bernath, ‘On Architecture of Building the Picture: China and Pictorial Introjection’ (doctoral thesis, Architectural Association, London, 2010).

38 Pandolfo, interview with the author, 2 November 2015. In a separate interview for local media, he claimed seven images were sent by email: ‘El Estadio Nacional: El Nuevo Estadio’, La Nación, 7 March 2011, (accessed on 30 August 2017).

39 Pandolfo, interview with the author, 2 November 2015.

40 Chacón, interview with the author, 29 October 2015.

41 Liu Pinghao and Zhu Wenyi, ‘A Study on the First Public Gymnasium in China — Shanghai YMCA Sichuan Rd Club’, International Journal of Culture and History, 1, (2015), pp. 122–28.

42 Xi Guoqi, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895–2008 (London, 2008), p. 40. Although this study purports to examine in depth the role of sport in China's nation-building and internationalisation, it leaves stadium-building entirely out of the discussion.

43 Lu Zhouxiang, ‘From Hongkew Recreation Ground to Bird's Nest: The Past, Present and Future of Large Sports Venues in China’, International Journal of the History of Sport, 30 (2013), pp. 422–42. See also Chen Yuanxin, Wang Jian and Liu Cong 陈元欣, 王健, 刘聪, ‘Xin zhongguo chengli yilai wo guo tiyu changguan gongji de lishi huigu’ 新中国成立以来我国体育场馆供给的历史回顾 [‘An Historical Review of Our Country's Provision of Sports Facilities Since the Establishment of the People's Republic of China’], Xi'an tiyu xueyuan xuebao 西安体育学院学报 [Journal of Xi'an Physical Education University], 30.4 (2013), pp. 411–18; Ma Guoxin 马国馨, ‘Tiyu jianzhu yi jiazi’ 体育建筑一甲子 [‘Sixty Years of Sports Architecture’], Chengshi jianzhu 城市建筑 [Urbanism and Architecture], 11 (2010), pp. 6–10; Hou Ye, Sun Yimin and Du Qing侯叶, 孙一民, 杜庆, ‘Qimeng: jindai zhongguo tiyu jianzhu de nei hua yanbian’ 启蒙—近代中国体育建筑的内化演变 [‘Enlightenment: The Internalised Develpment of Modern Chinese Sports Architecture’], Xin jianzhu 新建筑 [New Architecture], 5 (2017), pp. 83–87.

44 Anthony King, ‘The New European Stadium’, in Stadium Worlds: Football, Space and the Built Environment, ed. Sybille Frank and Silke Steets (New York, 2010), pp. 19–35 (p. 29).

45 Abel Garbanzo (in charge of the Costa Rican logistics of the stadium), interview with the author, 3 November 2015. According to Garbanzo, Chinese labourers worked twelve-hour shifts, with one day free per month. To avoid attempts at fleeing, AFECC translators confiscated all Chinese workers’ passports. See also Pia G. Valverde, ‘Trabajadores del Estadio Nacional vienen de pobre provincia china’, Semanario Universidad, 1 September 2009, (accessed on 5 January 2018); José M. Salazar Xirinachs, Enrique Dussel Peters and Ariel C. Armony, eds, Efectos de China en la cantidad y calidad del empleo en América Latina: México, Perú, Chile y Brasil (Lima, 2018).

46 CSADI has designed sports facilities in Guinea and China. In the construction drawings of the stadium in Costa Rica, CSADI referred to the Guinea project. AFECC has built sports facilities in Madagascar, Togo, Mozambique, Samoa, Grenada and Zambia: (accessed on 16 May 2020).

47 San José, ICODER Archive [hereafter IA], Contrato de diseño del proyecto para la construcción del nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, 29 April 2009; Decreto 34601-MP, La Gaceta, 135, 14 July 2008, p. 2. On earlier Chinese migration to Costa Rica, see James L. Huesmann, ‘The Chinese in Costa Rica, 1855–1897’, Historian, 53 (1991), pp. 711–20; Marlene Loría Chaves and Alonso Rodríguez Chaves, ‘La inmigración china a Costa Rica: Entre la explotación y la exclusión (1870–1910)’, Revista de Historia, 44 (2001), pp. 159–92; Ronald Soto Quirós, ‘Percepciones y actitudes políticas con respecto a la minoría china en Costa Rica: 1897–1911’, Revista Historia y Espacio, 32 (2009), pp. 165–223.

48 Cámara Costarricense de Construcción, ‘Empresas constructoras chinas en Costa Rica’, November 2010, (accessed on 15 December 2015); Garbanzo, interview with the author, 3 November 2015.

49 Comunicado de Prensa, ‘Aniversario del APC: Plataforma del CFIA cumple diez años de tramitar proyectos de manera digital’, Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos, 2 October 2015, (accessed on 18 July 2020). See also ‘Directriz Presidencial 009-MP-MJ-MEIC-MIVAH-MS-MINAE-MOPT’, La Gaceta, 26 September 2006, pp. 13–14; ‘Decreto 36550-MP-MIVAH-S-MEIC’, La Gaceta, 17 June 2011, pp. 2–8.

50 IA, Contrato de diseño del proyecto para la construcción del nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, 29 April 2009, p. 2.

51 Chacón, interview with the author, 29 October 2015; IA, Contrato de diseño del proyecto para la construcción del nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, 29 April 2009, p. 4.

52 As an example, the first Chinese ambassador to Costa Rica, Li Changua, studied in Mexico in 1974 and, during the 1980s and 1990s, worked as a civil servant in Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Uruguay. He was ambassador in Chile (2003–07), Colombia (2007–09) and Costa Rica (2009–13). Any Pérez, ‘Li Changhua: “China no quiere ser dueño de nadie”’, La Nación, 6 January 2013, (accessed on 15 September 2015). On China's public diplomacy, see Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World (New Haven and London, 2007), pp. 65–67.

53 Chacón, interview with the author, 29 October 2015.

54 CSADI 中南建筑设计院, ‘Yuan Gesidalijia tiyu’ 援哥斯达黎加体育场 [‘Costa Rican Aid Stadium’], (accessed on 8 October 2015).

55 San José, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justica [hereafter SCCSJ], ‘Recurso de Amparo en contra del Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación’, 30 September 2008, 08-013349-0007-CO; ‘Sentencia 15629 de Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia’, 15629, 17 October 2008, 08-013349-0007-CO. See also Harold Leandro C., ‘Nueve ciudadanos solicitan ante Sala IV parar construcción del Estadio Nacional’, La Nación, 3 October 2008, (accessed on 15 November 2015).

56 Zhang Ningqiu 张宁秋, ‘Zhong ge jianjiao yuan jian xianli: fanyuan Gesidalijia Guojia Tiyuchang xiangmu fuze ren’ 中哥建交援建献礼—访援哥斯达黎加国家体育场项目负责人 [‘Celebrating the Establishment of Sino-Costa Rican Relations Through a Gift of Construction Aid: An Interview with the Leaders of the Costa Rica National Stadium Project’], Huazhong jianzhu 华中建筑 [Huazhong Architecture], 8 (2008), pp. 258–59.

57 Bing Wang, The Architectural Profession of Modern China: Emerging from the Past (Beijing, 2011).

58 Li Fang 李钫 and Shen Tao 申涛, interview with the author, 17 April 2018.

59 As designer of China's embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2011, Cui overcame this limitation by sending two architects and an interior designer to the site for an eight-month stint. See Fan Lu and Sun Lingbo 范路, 孙凌波, ‘Fangtan: Zhongguo jianzhu shi de jingwai shijian: Cui Kai’ 访谈: 中国建筑师的境外实践, 崔愷 [‘Interviews: Chinese Architects’ Practices Abroad, Cui Kai’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 22–23 (p. 23).

60 Fan and Sun, ‘Fangtan’, pp. 22–23.

61 Sun, ‘Cong zhongguo zhong yuan’.

62 Fan and Sun, ‘Fangtan’, p. 23.

63 Leandro, ‘Haremos un estadio moderno’.

64 CSADI, ‘Yuan Gesidalijia tiyu’. See also Chen Ying 陈英, ‘Haishan de huoshan’ 海上的火山 [‘Volcano on the Sea’], Jianzhu zhishi 建筑知识 [Architectural Knowledge], 9 (2011), pp. 42–43.

65 Li Fang, interview with the author, 17 April 2018.

66 Chen Deng'ao 陈登鳌, ‘Dui woguo jianzhushi suo zuo guowai huitang sheji de ji dian kanfa’ 对我国建筑师所作国外会堂设计的几点看法 [‘Some Views on the Design of Foreign Buildings Made by Our Country's Architects], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 2 (1987), pp. 10–12.

67 Sun, ‘Cong zhongguo zhong yuan’, p. 39; Dou, ‘Jia qi youyi zhi qiao’, p. 116; Li Yao 李瑶, ‘Guojia xiandai biaoyan yishu zhongxin, Xibanya Gang, Telinida he Duobage gongheguo’ 国家现代表演艺术中心, 西班牙港, 特立尼达和多巴哥共和国 [‘National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 78–80 (p. 80).

68 Ai Xia 艾侠, ‘Kure yu rongyao Bulachaiwei'er Tiyu Zhongxin sheji pingshu’ 酷热与荣耀布拉柴维尔体育中心设计评述 [‘Heat and Honour: An Architectural Review of the Brazzaville Sports Centre’], Shidai jianzhu 时代建筑 [Time+Architecture], 2 (2018), pp. 132–35 (p. 134).

69 Yang Zhenyu 杨振宇, ‘Guiyana Guoji Huiyi Zhongxin’ 圭亚那国际会议中心 [Guyana International Conference Centre], Jianzhu xuebao 建筑学报 [Architectural Journal], 5 (2007), pp. 50–53 (p. 51).

70 Fan Lu and Sun Lingbo 范路, 孙凌波, ‘Fangtan: Zhongguo jianzhu shi de jingwai shijian: Shan Jun, Liu Yulong’ 访谈: 中国建筑师的境外实践, 单军刘玉龙 [‘Interviews: Chinese Architects’ Practices Abroad, Shan Jun, Liu Yulong’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 28–29); Liu Chen and Huang Weiwei 刘琛, 黄微微, ‘Xiang Feizhou xuexi: ji Zhongguo yuan Niri'er zonghe yiyuan’ 向非洲学习 —记中国援尼日尔综合医院 [‘Learning from Africa: Notes on the General Hospital of Niger aided by China’], Xin jianzhu 新建筑 [New Architecture], 3 (2017), pp. 56–61.

71 Foreign architects in China have used similar tropes. See, for example, Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House in the guise of ‘two pebbles’ on the bank of the Pearl River; C. Y. Lee and Partners’ Pangu Plaza; SOM's Jin Mao tower; and so on. This approach has drawn both eager approval and trenchant criticism. For Chinese scholars such as Gao Pei, regional characteristics are a means for making the building seem close and familiar in a global context. For Li and Tang, reflecting on the transformation of Chinese diplomatic architecture around the world, the question of transplanting a Chinese style is less a problem of accurate representation than a matter of how Chinese culture is paraded as a style ‘in the eyes of the west’. See Gao Pei 高培, ‘Guanyu dui jianzhu yishu minzu xing ji diyu de yinyu tansuo’ 关于对建筑艺术民族性及地域性的隐喻探索 [‘A Metaphorical Exploration of the Nationality and Regionality of Architectural Art’], Shanxi jianzhu 山西建筑 [Shanxi Architecture], 34.26 (2008), pp. 79–80; Ding Hua 丁华, ‘Qian tan juxiang yinyu zhuyi xiandai jianzhu sheji zhong de yingong’ 浅谈具象隐喻主义在现代建筑设计中的应用 [‘An Introductory Discussion on the Application of the Doctrine of Figurative Metaphor in Modern Architectural Design’], Zhongwai jianzhu 中外建筑 [Chinese and Overseas Architecture], 3 (2013), pp. 39-41; Li Zhenyu and Tang Keqing 李振宇, 唐可清, ‘Cong zhangxian dao rongru: Zhongguo zhu wai waijiao jianzhu de sheji zhuanbian’ 从彰显到融入: 中国驻外外交建筑的设计转变 [‘From Manifestation to Integration: The Transformation of Design in the Architecture of China's Overseas Diplomatic Premises’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 34–37 (p. 35).

72 Óscar Arias, ‘Discurso de colocación de la primera piedra Estadio Nacional’, San José, 12 March 2009.

73 Laura Chinchilla, ‘Discurso en la inauguración del nuevo Estadio Nacional’, San José, 26 March 2011.

74 Wu Yong, Yu Wenbo and Lü Meng 吴涌, 于文波, 吕猛, ‘Jianzhu sheji yuyan zhong de “Xindaya”: yuan Fei Meng Huiyi Zhongxin fang'an changzuo’ 建筑设计语言中的’信达雅'—援非盟会议中心方案创作 [‘“Xin Da Ya” in the Language of Architectural Design: Creating the Plan for the African Union Conference Centre Aid Project’], Huazhong jianzhu 华中建筑 [Huazhong Architecture], 7 (2011), pp. 49–52 (p. 52).

75 Zhang Li 张李, ‘“Shijie jianzhu” de duzhe pengyou’ “世界建筑” 的读者朋友 [‘Dear readers of World Architecture’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), p. 18; Fan Lu and Sun Lingbo 范路, 孙凌波, ‘Fangtan: Zhongguo jianzhu shi de jingwai shijian, Cheng Taining’ 访谈: 中国建筑师的境外实践, 程泰宁 [‘Interviews: Chinese Architects’ Practices Abroad, Cheng Taining’], Shijie jianzhu 世界建筑 [World Architecture], 1 (2015), pp. 20–21 (p. 21). On the role of architectural journals in contemporary architectural criticism in China, see Guanghui Ding, Constructing a Place of Critical Architecture in China: Intermediate Criticality in the Journal Time+Architecure (London, 2015), pp. 24–31.

76 Wu Jiang 伍江, ‘Zhongguo jianzhushi zou xiang shijie’ 中国建筑师走向世界 [‘Chinese Architects Go Global’], Shidai jianzhu 时代建筑 [Time+Architecture], 2 (2018), p. 59.

77 Recurso de Amparo en contra del Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación, 30 September 2008 (translated by author). See also Cecilia Valverde Barrenechea, ‘Josefinos: nuevo problema’, La Nación, 23 August 2008, (accessed on 16 July 2015). ‘By means of [the writ of amparo] the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the political constitution and international documents on human rights are guaranteed. It is used, for example, to demand that the right to education, health, and freedom of expression be ensured […] It can be presented by anyone, free of charge and through any means, without further formal requirements and without any need to be authenticated by a lawyer’: Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Costa Rica, ‘Funciones y competencias’, (accessed on 17 May 2020).

78 Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Estudio técnico de rearboirización Parque Metropolitano La Sabana (San José, 2008); Comisión Interinstitucional del Proyecto de Rearborización de La Sabana, Proyecto de reaborización del Parque Metropolitano La Sabana 2008–2017 (San José, 2011).

79 The stadium has been one of the targets of the ‘spiritual war’ declared by a group of the Costa Rican neopentecostal movement. ‘They brought us a football stadium that had been made in China. Now we have to contend with all these demons from China, because architecture, and everything it does, also brings with it its practices’: Rony Chaves, ‘Guerra Espiritual Estratégica’, XXI Conferencia de la palabra de Dios del 2010, Centro Mundial de Adoración, (accessed on 10 January 2020).

80 Guido Sáenz, interview with the author, 19 October 2015.

81 Francois Jullien, On the Universal, the Uniform, the Common and Dialogue Between Cultures (Cambridge, 2014), p. 142.

82 Jullien, On the Universal, p. 168.

83 Jullien, On the Universal, p. 167.

84 Peter Sloterdijk, Spheres Vol. 3: Foams Plural Spherology (Los Angeles, 2016), pp. 584–602, (p. 585).

85 Óscar Arias, speech for the foundation-stone ceremony of the Costa Rican National Stadium, 15 March 2009.

86 Sloterdijk, Spheres, p. 597.

87 For the sizable asymmetries in the trade balance between Costa Rica and mainland China, see Maureen Alpízar Arce et al., Estadísticas de comercio exterior Costa Rica 2017 (San José, 2018).

88 China has also designed and built a police academy in Costa Rica (Limón province, 2014–17), financed a Chinatown in downtown San José, and is currently building an extension to a highway. In 2018, Costa Rica signed the Belt-and-Road Initiative and received a further donation for a ‘modernisation’ of the National Stadium comprising an update of the fire security system, the irrigation system and monitor screens. Accordingly, another very discreet visit to Costa Rica by Li, Shen and the CSADI team took place in September 2018. See Monica DeHart, ‘Costa Rica's Chinatown: The Art of Being Global in the Age of China’, City and Society, 27.2 (2015), pp. 183–207; Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica, Comunicados, 6 December 2018, (accessed on 25 February 2019).

89 Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (London and New York, 2014).

90 ‘China podrá por fin construir un estadio en Costa Rica’, La Nación, 19 October 2008, (accessed on 2 December 2019).

91 Tsing, Anna L., ‘On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales’, Common Knowledge, 18.3 (2012), pp. 505–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

92 San José, Archivo Nacional, Serie del Congreso no. 17396, f. 10, 1936. A 1751 account of the village describes eleven tile-roof houses and fifteen straw-roof houses, without altogether forming a main square or a street, with no water system, and one humble church. By 1783, the population had increased to 4869. Quesada, Florencia, La modernización entre cafetales: San José, Costa Rica, 1880–1930 (San José, 2011), pp. 47Google Scholar.

93 Zamora Hernández, La Sabana, p. 20. See also Víquez, Cleto González, San José y sus comienzos: documentos fundamentales (San José, 1987), pp. 735Google Scholar.

94 San José, Decreto Legislativo 151, 16 August 1923.

95 SCCSJ, Sentencia 08743 de Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 08743, 23 December 1997, 97-008034-007-CO.

96 At present, the Costa Rican state religion is Roman Catholic by constitution.

97 Esposito, Roberto, Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (Stanford, CA, 2010), p. 139Google Scholar.

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