China Forbids ‘Weird’ Architecture

February 23, 2016



A directive issued on Sunday by the State Council, China’s cabinet, and the Communist Party’s Central Committee says no to architecture that is “oversized, xenocentric, weird” and devoid of cultural tradition. Instead, buildings should be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” The directive also follows President Xi Jinping’s criticism in late 2014 of “weird architecture.”

The guidelines come two months after a high-level meeting to address some of the problems that have arisen as a result of China’s rapid urbanization. More than 56 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people are urbanites.

Experts say that as a result of the new guidelines from top leaders, they expect stricter design standards for public buildings. Wang Kai, vice president of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, under the Ministry of Construction, said that functionality should take precedence in public buildings. “We shouldn’t go overboard in pursuit of appearances,” he said.

Cities will no longer be allowed to grow beyond what their natural resources can support. The guideline adds that construction techniques that use fewer resources, such as prefabricated buildings, would be encouraged, and that within a decade, 30 percent of new buildings would be prefabricated.

James Shen, one of the founders of People's Architecture Office in Beijing, says prefabricated structures could help the country ensure quality and lower housing costs. His design office has constructed IKEA-like prefabricated structures, that help modernize traditional courtyard homes in the city.

In 2014 Mr. Xi urged that there be “no more weird architecture.” A social media platform under People’s Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, predicted that “in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’ ” — a reference to the China Central Television Headquarters,  designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren.

The government says it will use a variety of methods including remote satellite sensing to locate buildings that violate existing urban planning policies. Within five years, a map of all such illegal buildings across China’s cities will have been drawn up and action taken against violators.

Source: China Daily; CNN; NYTimes