There is disappointing aesthetic news from the internet today: The People’s Republic of China is trying to reign in weird architecture. A CNN article provides the basic facts, “A statement from China’s State Council Sunday, says new guidelines on urban planning will forbid the construction of ‘bizarre’ and ‘odd-shaped’ buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage. Instead, the directive calls for buildings that are ‘economic, green and beautiful’.”
Based on this language, one might hope for a future of soaring super pagodas covered with solar cells and hydroponic forests, however I think it is much more likely that we will see lots of boring giant rectangles designed by committees (like the new World Trade Center…or Freedom Tower…or whatever it ended up being called). Communist China had its own history of creating dull monoliths. This was interrupted by a spate of crazy fun building projects, but it seems like the party is cracking down on the architectural effervescence (probably as a symptom of the vast market correction now under way).
The China Central Television building in Beijing, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren.
Sheraton in Huzhou
During the last quarter century China has seen outrageous economic growth. Along with this boom, strange giant edifices popped up all along the Chinese coast like weird mushrooms from outer space. I have put pictures of some of my favorites in this article. I particularly like the Shanghai World Financial Center (which has always reminded me of a broken off piece of some cool mystery awl) and of course the many torus buildings. However the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium and the Shanghai Tower and the “Giant Pants” and the huge teakettle were all good too. There were some less famous but more charming sculpture buildings at a local level which I have also included here.
Rendering of the Shanghai World Financial Center with the Jin Mao Building at right
I did not realize how much I liked these buildings until I read the news today and found out they now belong to the past. These buildings went hand in hand with eye-popping double digit growth percentages for the Chinese GDP. I wonder if, now that the buildings are going to stop going up, the stupendous growth will cease too. Mandarins from all cultures have a way of forgetting that just as art reflects society, society reflects art too.