In Brief

Chinese Government Has Had It with “Oversized, Weird” Architecture

The Tianzi Hotel (image via @flight965/Instagram)
The Tianzi Hotel (image via @flight965/Instagram)

Architects in China apparently need to tone down the quirkiness of their designs and quit erecting buildings that pass as giant pants, penises, and ancient coins. As the South China Morning Post (SCMP) first reported, the State Council on Sunday issued a directive concerning the country’s future blueprint that includes a ban on “weird” architecture. Rather than being “oversized, xenocentric, weird,” and non-representative of China’s cultural heritage, as so many current buildings supposedly are, new structures must be “suitable, economic green and pleasing to the eye.”

Fang Yuan building in Shenyang, China (photo by Christian Mange/Flickr, used under CC BY-ND 2.0 license) (click to enlarge)
Fang Yuan building in Shenyang, China (photo by Christian Mange/Flickr) (click to enlarge)

The announcement follows last December’s Central Urban Work Conference, during which state leaders pledged to address infrastructural issues that have emerged from rapid urbanization, including pollution, public safety, and traffic jams. President Xi Jinping also vocalized his disapproval of buildings with unconventional appearances in October 2014. Speaking at a literary symposium, he noted that art should be patriotic and “be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.”

One of the sunshine- and breeze-less works Xi called out was the glass-covered CCTV headquarters, designed by Rem Koolhaas and nicknamed “Big Pants” by locals mocking how its towers connect (“CCTV is a very serious building,” Koolhaas later told Dezeen, probably very seriously). Koolhaas’s rigid pantaloons, however, are just one example of the myriad peculiar structures that dot China’s landscapes. In fact, another pair of britches stands tall in Suzhou, in the form of a dual skyscraper designed by British architecture firm RMJM. Known as the Gate to the East, the arch-like form has received its share of online insults. Other buildings critiqued by locals include the headquarters of China’s state-run People’s Daily, which today looks like a futuristic rocket but while under construction closely resembled a phallus (its scaffolding formed rather unfortunate patterns). Then there are a number of buildings intended to look just like objects, from the teapot-shaped Meitan Tea Museum to the one-of-a-kind Tianzi Hotel, which takes the shape of the three ancient Sanxing deities — because why not?

CCTV Headquarters built by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren (image via Wikipedia)
CCTV Headquarters built by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren (image via Wikipedia)

Liu Shilin, head of the Institute of Urban Science at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University, told SCMP that the new policy is a step in the right direction, as many of these strange buildings were costly and impractical.

“These buildings do not have much value in terms of use, and cost a lot to operate and maintain,” he said. “Quite a few were torn down soon after completion.”

While it may be practical, such an initiative will impose serious restraints on creativity. True, the world may not need a factory in the shape of a giant booze bottle, but such kitschy visions are certainly more fun than a landscape filled with sleek, uniform buildings. Here’s hoping some architects give no fucks and go full Frank Gehry on the new demands.

The Gate of the Orient (image via Wikipedia)
The Gate of the Orient (image via Wikipedia)
The People's Daily New Headquarters under construction (image via @vicbjing/Instagram)
The People’s Daily New Headquarters under construction (image via @vicbjing/Instagram)
The completed People's Daily New Headquarters (image via @raf009/Instagram)
The completed People’s Daily New Headquarters (image via @raf009/Instagram)
The Guotai Arts Center in Chongqing (photo via @arcsaberx/Instagram)
The Guotai Arts Center in Chongqing (photo via @arcsaberx/Instagram)
Guangzhou Circle (image via Wikipedia)
Guangzhou Circle (image via Wikipedia)
China's National Centre for the Performing Arts (image via Wikipedia)
China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (image via Wikipedia)
Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort (image via Wikipedia)
Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort (image via Wikipedia)
Sunrise East Kempinski Hotel (image via @monalisa_81/Instagram)
Sunrise East Kempinski Hotel (image via @monalisa_81/Instagram)
Zaha Hadid's Galaxy SOHO in Beijing (photo by Rob Deutscher via Flickr, used under CC BY 2.0 license)
Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy SOHO in Beijing (photo by Rob Deutscher via Flickr, used under CC BY 2.0 license)
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