China marks a "new era" of architecture with the banning of skyscrapers and imitated buildings

China marks a “new era” of architecture with the banning of skyscrapers and imitated buildings

written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Among the Chinese government’s new guidelines for architects, real estate developers, and urban planners are to finish “mimic” buildings and ban skyscrapers more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) high.
Defining what it calls a “new era” for Chinese cities, a circular The country’s Ministry of Housing and the National Development and Reform Commission earlier this year also proposed other comprehensive measures to ensure “the embodiment of the spirit” of the surrounding buildings and “highlight Chinese characteristics”.
With height restrictions already imposed on places such as Beijing, and a 2016 government directive calling for termination of “large, central, and bizarre” buildings, the guidelines seem to formalize the changes that were already underway.

The Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen is currently the fourth tallest building in the world. credit: Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty Images

But according to Chinese architecture experts, some less noticeable suggestions – such as an appeal for heritage protection, a credit system for designers and the appointment of senior architects – may indicate a more subtle development in the way Chinese cities are planned.

“The document is not only about height,” Li Shiqiao, professor of Asian architecture at the University of Virginia, said in a telephone interview. “It is about Chinese culture, urban context, city spirit and the emergence of modernity.”

“This has been a lot in the academic debate, but somehow not in a government document yet.”

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Half of the 10 completed buildings over 500 meters high are found in mainland China.

Among them are the second skyscraper on the planet, the twisted 632-meter (2073-foot) Shanghai Twisted Tower, and the Shenzhen Malaysia Ping An Center, 599 meters (1,965 feet) from base to tip.

In the past two years, they have been joined by Beijing CITIC Tower and Tianjin CTF Financial Center, the seventh and ninth tallest buildings in the world respectively. But the tide against rising skyscrapers has begun to shift for some time.
The number of new buildings with an area of ​​200 meters (656 feet) or more in China decreased by nearly 40% last year, according to construction data released by the Council of High Building and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). In the central business district of downtown Beijing, height restriction has already been applied to new offerings – a ceiling of only 180 meters (591 feet) according to 2018 Report By property company Jones Lang LaSalle.
Elsewhere in the country, the expected Wuhan Greenland center height has been reduced from 636 meters (2,087 feet) to less than 500 – a decision made in 2018, after construction began, necessitating a major redesign – with local media Quoting from airspace regulations. Since then, the planned Suzhou Hongnam Center Height has been cut from 729 meters (2,392 feet) to 499 meters (1,637 feet), with the coming skyscrapers in Chengdu and Shenyang cities “suffering the same fate”, according to the state-run tabloid newspaper Global Times.

A ship-shaped skyscraper transforms the Beijing skyline

Fay Chen, professor of architecture at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, described the limit of 500 meters as “completely arbitrary”, adding that the 499 meters tall skyscrapers “are still very high buildings.” But she said the new document underscored the growing intolerance of buildings “out of range or out of context”.

Chen also noted official concern about the “reckless” use of tall buildings, as expensive and unprofitable towers are used by real estate companies to discern their developments – or by local governments to place their cities on the map.

“(The guidelines) respond to the identity crisis that we’ve all noticed since the 1980s, when cities started borrowing standards and building types from international contexts,” she said in a telephone interview. “Since the 1990s, cities have been promoted as competitive in the market by building landmarks and large public buildings.”

As such, the new constraints are related to economics like design. Above a certain height, the cost of building skyscrapers increases dramatically with each additional floor. China Airlines is now fading with unfinished towers as economic growth slows and developers face pressure on credit.

Workers above the Wuhan Greenland Center, which is not completed eight years after construction began.

Workers above the Wuhan Greenland Center, which is not completed eight years after construction began. credit: STR / AFP / Getty Images

to me CTBUH data, About 70 Chinese buildings were supposed to stand above 200 meters currently “suspended”, after they had already started construction. Three of them were expected to measure over 500 meters, including the elevated Goldin Finance 117 height in Tianjin, which started a decade ago. The aforementioned Greenland Center in Wuhan has remained patchy and largely untouched since 2017, despite its low planned altitude.
Li sees the government’s new measures embodying a “new paradigm” for Chinese cities – one less reliant on marketable skyscrapers and speculative financing. To illustrate this transformation, Shanghai’s Pudong District compares the high financial quarter that has risen from almost nothing in the past two decades, to Xiongun, the new city that was built 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Unlike Pudong, the new 2.5 million people space city It will be relatively low-rise, with the real estate market subject to tight state controls.

“If you take Pudong as a model of Chinese urban expansion from 2000 to today, you’re looking at Xiongan – which is not dominated by real estate speculation or famous buildings – as a new model … that’s an amazing change they are witnessing.”

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However, he assures me that the 500-meter restriction is, from an academic point of view, “probably the least important part” of the new government guidelines.

Elsewhere, the post contains a set of other measures, including a ban on “plagiarism, counterfeiting and imitation behavior.” The Eiffel Tower in China and the London-inspired Thames outside Shanghai are two of the most extreme – and ironic – examples of how imitation architecture flourished in the first decade of the 21st century.

A replica of the Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.

A replica of the Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. credit: Johannes Isle / AFP / Getty Images

Once again, this formal transformation may simply reflect China’s changing design culture. But Chen said that an explicit ban on plagiarism could still prove beneficial in a country of “the degree of quality is very diverse”.

“There is already recognition in the architecture (transcription) industry not welcome,” she said. “But China is huge, and some cities are working better than others.

“In the East Coast cities, or more developed regions, architects have better design skills, so they produce better buildings. But in the inner cities, you still see buildings that copy other people’s styles or architectural languages, and that doesn’t lead to very good design.”

The government document also proposes a credit system – and, conversely, a blacklist – for architects, to encourage compliance with planning laws and regulations. He warns against demolishing historical buildings, traditional architecture or even old trees to make room for new developments, a move in line with the growing focus on preserving China’s heritage. (Two art museums in Shanghai, built from deserted industrial oil tanks and an ancient power plant, are among recent notable renovation projects in a country formerly known to have destroyed ancient random structures.)

But one of the suggestions of the new government proposes something completely new in China: the top architects of each city.

Moscow and Barcelona are among the cities that have already appointed an individual to approve or object to new proposals. Li welcomed the idea as a way to ensure that the designs fit into the overall urban context.

He added: “The hesitation is whether ensuring unification means that the city becomes predictable and not interesting, or whether you actually maintain a degree of creativity.” “But we have a great new generation (of Chinese designers) great at preserving the urban fabric and creating a very exciting architecture. The key is to establish a system that guarantees this process.”

Chongqing skyline, in southwest China.

Chongqing skyline, in southwest China. credit: Zhao Wang / AFP / Getty Images

How or even if more exploratory government proposals are paying off. Chen, whose research focuses on urban governance in China, said the new guidelines provide a broad framework for cities, but precise details must be resolved at the local level.

She described the circular as a series of red lines that should not be crossed (“don’t do” more than “dos”), also suggested that work is still required to express positively what constitutes a good design.

“There are policies and documents that talk about you should not be Do … which is good, but they never say what you are Should And she did, “she explained.” Architects and urban designers may benefit from quite specific guidelines on what a good design is.

“But this has to be related to the local context, so I don’t expect the national government to provide guidelines like this. What works in one context may not work in another.”

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