No More “Weird” Buildings for China
Megan Wild posted on March 10, 2016 |
Architects are getting a little too creative, say China officials.

The Chinese government released a new set of urban planning guidelines for city planners on February 21, 2016, and one of its aims seems to be to quash the creativity of architects. These guidelines include an unexpected mandate: a ban on oddly shaped buildings.

A Ban on Weird Buildings?

The CCTV Headquarters has been a subject of speculation due to its pants-like appearance.

The CCTV Headquarters has been a subject of speculation due to its pants-like appearance.

China has long been home to some of the wildest buildings out there, including such creations as the “big pants” building (Beijing’s CCTV Headquarters), the Oriental Pearl Tower (a TV tower in Shanghai) and the USS Enterprise (headquarters for game developer NetDragon Websoft). Although these buildings may not be renovated or destroyed, architects will no longer be permitted to design unconventional structures.

“These buildings do not have much value in terms of use and cost a lot to operate and maintain,” said Liu Shilin, head of the Institute of Urban Science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. “Quite a few were torn down soon after completion. The [new] policy is heading in a good direction.”

New structures will be required to meet standards for functionality and environmental awareness in order to assist with overpopulation and emission issues. The government will be inspecting structures to enforce these standards over the next five years.

Improving Urban Planning and Infrastructure

The new set of guidelines is the result of the Central Urban Work Conference, held in December 2015 to address the issue of exploding city sizes. In order to tackle this looming problem, however, it needs to do quite a bit more than limit architectural creativity.

The guidelines will also cover:

  • A reform of China’s urban housing system, including the renovation of existing shantytowns, urban villages and dilapidated houses.
  • The creation of new, open residential communities connected by public roads, which could help with utilization of urban land and improved road infrastructure.
  • An increase in green belts and public parks, including removal of buildings currently occupying public green land.
  • An increase in protection for historical and cultural sites using repair and renovation plans.
  • The improvement of public transportation systems, including buses and subways.

Implications for Chinese Architecture

Although the new set of guidelines bodes well for the future of China’s cities, it’s getting mixed reviews from the AEC community.

With these new guidelines, unique structures like the Oriental Pearl Tower may not be permitted.

With these new guidelines, unique structures like the Oriental Pearl Tower may not be permitted.

On the other hand, it helps to curb design for design’s sake.The country has been considered an architect’s playground due to its penchant for creative structures, often designed by foreign architects.

Unless these architects are willing to put the same efforts into technological innovation rather than outspoken design, this sudden restraint on building styles could well be the end of ambitious architecture.

“The guidelines point to a positive direction, particularly in China,” said architect Hao Dong, founder of Crossboundaries, a Beijing-based architecture firm. “There are so many buildings completed to stand out, without considering their function.”

What do you think? Tell us in your comments below.

About the Author


Megan Wild is a construction expert who writes about the latest trends in the industry and building news around the world. She also writes on her own home improvement blog, Your Wild Home.

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