I was reading through some articles in Scottish Construction Now (yes, I do lead an exciting life) the other day, and came across a series of pieces on how the Chinese have enacted a ban on what leader Xi Jinping has called “weird architecture”. Apparently Chinese architects have been getting a little excitable and creating buildings that are “bizarre” and “odd-shaped” and devoid of character or cultural heritage. The government has therefore issued an edict banning buildings that are “oversized, xenocentric, weird” and asking for buildings to be designed to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye”. In case you’re wondering what they’re up in arms about, below are some examples.
This one is the new Beijing headquarters of Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television – it’s been nicknamed ‘The Big Underpants’!
This picture is of the Guangzhou Circle building located in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, headquarters of the Hongda Xingye Group, and home of Guangdong Plastic Exchange (GDPE), the world largest trading centre for raw plastic material. Looks like a giant sewing machine thread bobbin to me!
The headquarters of the People’s Daily, the biggest newspaper group in China and official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has been mocked for its phallic appearance. Not much of a surprise!
This one was apparently built by a Star Trek super fan (REALLY? I’d never have guessed!), for the software company DragonNet and is modeled after the USS Enterprise. Apparently inside there are 30-foot slides made of metal for quick access to the ground level, automatic sliding doors between rooms, and a huge replica of a T-Rex.
This is called The Piano House (I know, imaginative name, right?) in Huainan City, and was built by students studying architecture at Hefei University of Technology in 2007.
This is the Tianzi Hotel Beijing, also known as the Son of Heaven Hotel. The facade depicts Fu, Lu, and Shou, the Chinese gods of good fortune, prosperity and longevity. Shou, with the white beard, welcomes guests through a door in his right foot, while his right hand holds the Peach of Immortality – which houses the hotel’s luxury suite.
No, you’re not seeing things, this really is a building built like a gigantic bottle of booze. This is the headquarters and factory of the Wuliangye Group, who brew the popular (well, in China anyway) Baijiu liquor.
Less weird, and actually rather beautiful, is the Lotus building in Wujin, China, which appears to be growing right out of the water. The entrance is below the lake and inside are meeting rooms, conference centres, and exhibition halls. It was designed to minimise energy usage, with geothermal piles through the base of the artificial lake, and the lake water mass being used to pre-cool the building in summer and pre-warm during winter. It’s also naturally ventilated and utilises evaporative cooling from the lake surface to drive a thermal chimney within the main flower pod.
Some of these are pretty wacky, but can we really say anything? London has the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater (famous for having bolts fall out of it not long after it opened) and the Gherkin, which have pretty weird nicknames, but aren’t actually anywhere near as interesting as the Chinese buildings above. What we’re actually very good at in the UK these days is bland. None of the Chinese ‘characters’ pictured above would ever have got near planning (you might think that’s a good thing!). But as you drive past identikit blocks in every town and city, you’ve got to wonder whether the Chinese sense of individuality might be preferable……