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China Discourages ‘Weird’ Architecture

Communist Party rulers would rather see functional public structures that please the eye

Posted on Feb 26 2016 by Scott Gibson

Unhappy with the direction that modern urban architecture has taken, Chinese leaders have issued a directive that prohibits the construction of big, strange-looking buildings that are too obvious about their foreign design influences.

The New York Times reports that the State Council, China's cabinet, and the Communist Party's Central Committee issued a directive that seeks to reel in projects that are "oversized, xenocentric, weird" and instead encourages designs that are "suitable, economic, green, and pleasing to the eye."

China already has three reproductions of the Arc de Triomphe, an Eiffel Tower, and ten White Houses. But enough is enough, the party leader said.

President Xi Jinping called for an end to "weird architecture" in 2014, and the People's Daily later predicted that would spell the end to modernistic designs like "Giant Trousers," the nickname for the building housing the China Central Television headquarters in Beijing.

Chinese leaders have now followed up with this formal directive. The Times said that experts expect stricter design guidelines for public buildings — guidelines that favor functionality over wild flights of architectural fancy. "We shouldn't go overboard in pursuit of appearances," said Wang Kai, vice president of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.

The move comes two months after a conference called to address problems associated with China's urbanization. More than 56% of the country's 1.3 billion population now live in urban areas, up from 18% in 1978 when the last conference of its kind took place.

Patrik Schumacher, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, which has designed some of Beijing's modernist buildings, said that the directive is an attempt to make the country more reliant on its own architectural talent and to prevent foreign design firms from trying out their brash design ideas on Chinese soil.

In addition to pushing more conservative building designs, party leaders also called for an end to gated residential communities. Those already built will gradually be opened to traffic, with the goal of reducing traffic congestion.


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Image Credits:

  1. Kyle Simourd / CC / Flickr

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