The Chinese president Xi Jinping has condemned his nation’s fascination with ‘weird architecture’
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China hit out at the wave of wacky buildings thrown up during the country’s recent construction boom.
The attack on the architects and artists behind the schemes came as the 61-year-old gave a two-hour speech at a literary symposium in Beijing last week.
Xi singled out Rem Koolhaas’ CCTV Headquarters in Beijing for particular criticism, even though the building was named the Best Tall Building Worldwide by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) in 2013 (see AJ 08.11.13)
Other oddities to have appeared on the Chinese skyline include RMJM’s Gate of the Orient building - an 88-storey development in Suzhou likened to a pair of trousers.
Chris Twinn, of TwinnSustainabilityInnovation, who spent more than a decade working in China with Arup
‘For too long Chinese architecture has been dominated by skin-deep aesthetics and little consideration of how the building or urban context actually works for the users.
‘This has been reinforced by their design procurement which means the high cost Western designers are largely restricted to delivering conceptual gee-whizz, without regard to capital cost. Then the design and implementation is handing over to local design institutes (LDIs) working on a fraction of the fee levels, whose role is to strip out the cost, dumb down the detail, and provide a better technical match to the execution capabilities of their dramatically lower cost base supply chains.
‘All of this is then readily accepted by the end users who have relatively low expectations, and no tradition of open critique and feedback – particularly where it might involve people in high places potentially losing face over their grand schemes.
‘In the meantime, the West continues to flog them ideas of a LEED ‘platinum’ label irrespective of the fact that this would near double China’s energy needs – for the country that is already the largest carbon dioxide emitter! Interesting this would have a far larger impact that the carbon emissions of the stuff they make for us.
‘That all said, China is learning and maturing very fast. A large proportion of their top level politicians understand these underlying issues - most have a technical training background, unlike ours. It’s just that changing the direction of a 1.3 billion population super-tanker hell bent on our standards of living takes more effort, and slightly longer, than overnight.’