The Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen is currently the fourth largest building in the world. Credit: Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty Images
However, according to Chinese architectural experts, some less interesting suggestions, such as the application of heritage preservation, credit arrangements for designers and the appointment of chief architects, could signal a subtle evolution as planned in Chinese cities.
“The document is not just about height,” Lee Shikiao, a professor of Asian architecture at the University of Virginia, said in a phone interview. “It’s about Chinese culture, urban context, urban consciousness and the appearance of modernity.”
“There has been a lot of academic discussion, but no official document yet.”
Cut into shapes
Half of the 10 finished buildings measuring more than 500 meters worldwide are found in mainland China.
These include the planet’s second-largest skyscraper, the Shanghai Tower at 32 meters (2,0733 feet), and the Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, which is 999 meters (1,9655 feet) from base to tip.
Vessel-shaped ‘supertol’ skyscraper transforms Beijing’s skyline
Fei Chen, a senior architecture professor at the University of Liverpool in the UK, described the 500-meter limit as “quite arbitrary” and added that the 499-meter-tall skyscraper is “still a very tall building”. But the new documents confirm the growing intolerance for buildings that are “off-scale or out of context”.
Chen also pointed to government concerns about the “reckless” use of tall buildings, with real estate companies – or local governments – using expensive and unprofitable towers to map their cities.
“(Guidelines) We all respond to the identity crisis we’ve seen since the 1980s, when cities began to take standards and building types from international statistics,” he said in a phone interview. “And since the nineties, cities have been identified as market competitors through the construction of landmarks and large government buildings.”
As such, the new restrictions are as much about the economy as the design. Above a certain height, the cost of building skyscrapers increases significantly with each additional floor. China’s skylines are now blocked by unfinished towers as economic growth slows and developers face credit crunch.
Workers at the top of the Wuhan Greenland Center, which remains unfinished eight years after construction began. Credit: SRT / AFP / Getty Images
“If you take Pudong as an example of Chinese urbanization from 2000 to the present, you look at Jiangxi – which is not influenced by real estate speculation or iconic buildings – as a new example … but we are witnessing quite an amazing change.”
A new structure
Yet Lee added that the 500-meter-high restriction is “probably the least interesting” part of the new government’s guidelines, from an academic standpoint.
Elsewhere, the notice contains various other measures, including a prohibition on “plagiarism, imitation and copying”. China’s own Eiffel Tower and London-inspired Thames Town outside of Shanghai are two more extreme – and ridiculous – examples of how fake architecture flourished in the 2000s.
Luxury real estate development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng. Credit: Johannes Eisel / AFP / Getty Images
This official shift, again, reflects China’s changing design culture. Chen said, however, that a clear ban on plagiarism could prove effective in a country where “the degree of quality is so diverse,” Chen said.
“There is already a recognition in the architecture industry that (copying) is not welcome,” he said. “But China is huge, and some cities are doing better than others.
“Architects have better design skills in east-coast cities or in more developed areas, so they build better buildings. But in inner cities you still see buildings that mimic other people’s styles or architectural languages, and the result is not very good.” doesn’t design. “
But one of the government’s new proposals is to offer something completely new to China: the chief architect of each city ects
Moscow and Barcelona are among the cities that have already hired someone to approve or veto a new proposal. Lee welcomed the idea as a way to ensure that digital fits into the overall urban context.
“The dilemma is whether ensuring uniformity means a city has become more predictable and anxious, or whether you have actually maintained some creativity,” he added. “But we have a new generation (of Chinese designers) that is great at both maintaining urban fabric and highly attractive architecture. The key is establishing a system that guarantees that process.”
Skyline in Chongqing, southwest China. Credit: Wang Zhao / AFP / Getty Images
How or even – it remains to be seen whether the government’s further investigative recommendations are effective. The new guidelines provide a broader framework for cities but the final details must be addressed at the local level, China says, whose research focuses on urban governance in China.
By identifying the notice as a series of red lines that should not be crossed (“no” more than “dos”), he further suggested that work needs to be done to say positively what constitutes a good design.
“Policies and documents are talking about you Should not Do … which is a very good thing, but they never told you Should “He explained.” Architects and urban designers can benefit from specific guidelines on what makes a good design.
“However, it needs to be involved in the local context, so I would not expect the national government to raise such a direction. What works in one context may not work in another.”