Republic City is the capital city of the United Republic of Nations as well as one of the largest and most modern cities in the world, with a population of millions. Located on the shores of Yue Bay, it is built upon what was once the territory of a Fire Nation colony and was founded by Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang after the conclusion of the Hundred Year War as a haven for immigrants from all across the four nations. Being a modern urban center, Republic City boasts significant high-rise development as well as the widespread use of automobiles, motorcycles, and airships.
In contrast to the other major cities of the world, Republic City is a true metropolitan urban center. The city has developed the architectural and technological sophistication to construct taller buildings, resulting in significant high-rise development. Stylistically, the city generally incorporates traditional ornamentation with far more advanced structural techniques, such as the design of City Hall and the Pro-bending Arena. Despite this, there are still landmarks built entirely in a traditional style, such as Air Temple Island. Beneath the city there is an extensive tunnel network. The metropolitan area is divided into many boroughs.
I like anime and I watched many movies and series of this kind, but none of them impressed me by designing the place just like the Avatar: The Legend of Korra did. This Nickelodeon realistic design anime managed to impress me with the Republic City architecture, which is a Chinese New York style from the 20s of the last century. Apart from the fact that everything is in Chinese oriental style, with pagodas and these, the city also has buildings influenced by art déco architecture. Namely, Republican City reminds me of Shanghai, which still preserves the European modernist heritage of the interwar period. The cars are similar to those of the art déco era, just like radio sets or dwelling blocks. The charm is that everything has Chinese elements. This particular detail points more to the traditionalism of architecture than to its modernism. But I see the architecture of the city as a new face of art déco style, just like the concept of China’s alternative history in Republic City and its surroundings.
Taking into account the theme of cultural dynamism, revolution and development, Legend of Korra is part of a more or less ideal world in China’s history. In the 1930s, the city of Shanghai was considered East Paris, or East New York. Due to the fall of the imperial system, the powers of Europe and Japan fought for China’s ports. Thus, in cities such as Macao, Shanghai or Hong Kong, criminal groups, known gangsters and triads have begun to appear. These gangsters collaborated with colonialists just because they were offering them money. Liberals and students were debating the future of China, while elites were doing business with foreign oligarchs. In the Avatar universe we see the same things, but the creators of the show have added more magic.
In the world of Korra we see how the inheritance of Chinese culture, old objects and traditions coexist peacefully with modernity, what we see in garment design, architectural style and car design. Republic City is so much influenced by Western culture that some buildings resemble Louis Sullivan’s architecture.
Text by: Claudiu C. CREȚU
Source: Legend of Korra
© The Bunget 2017