From smog-chomping supercities to giant penis skyscrapers, China has built its reputation on wild and wacky structures of late. But in a public speech last week, China's president made a promise to his country: "No more weird architecture." No way! Here's why we need to Keep China Weird.
President Xi Jinping began his attack by criticising what could generally be considered to be the first building of the Nouveau Weird Movement, Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building (which is, admittedly, not that weird anymore). He warned that the pursuit of commercialism should not eclipse aesthetics, reports the Wall Street Journal : "Fine art works should be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles." WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
To be sure, China's unprecedented growth has led to a few humdingers. There are cities that are supposedly vacant. Other ones that are knockoffs of other places entirely. Those aren't weird, though. I'm talking about weird-weird, like hot pink spires that pack more buzzwords per square foot than any other building on the planet. If China doesn't keep cranking out these kind of buildings, who else is going to step up to the challenge?
That's why China needs to keep its design game on the crazy side.
There are some very real concerns about the side effects of China's building boom. The environmental factor, of course — this kind of unregulated growth that results in tearing down entire mountains is not good for air or water quality. And human rights violations need to be examined when it comes to clearing older communities for development and ensuring workers are being treated fairly. According to ArchDaily, the reason the president is speaking out against these buildings is about attacking the corruption around corporate boondoggles more than anything else. And it's also about national pride: Most of these buildings are not by Chinese architects; they're simply dropped into context by foreign architects.
But why shouldn't China be proud to be playground for weird architecture?
Some of these projects can only be completed in China, a place that has the funds, space, and ambition to experiment with structural hyperbole. Like the new national art gallery, which might be the largest museum on Earth when it's finished.
The ripply roofed New Century Global Tower in Chengdu is already the largest building ever constructed — so big that you could fit three Pentagons inside. And it's really weird!
The permission to be weird also gives architects licence to dream up weird ideas. Look at Shenzhen Bay Super City, which plans not only to have one of the tallest towers on the planet, but also to have smog-battling powers on its cantilevered terraces..
The Ping An Finance Tower is not so much weird-looking as it is TOTALLY BADASS. The building will most likely be the second-tallest on the planet very soon and it's doing everything it can to get there: At one point this year it was adding a new floor every 96 hours!
And that brings up another important point: China's design weirdness is also spurring an industry of innovation. Elevators on the 1,738-foot Guangzhou CTF Finance Center will be the fastest on the planet, making their 95-story journey in 43 seconds.
China is at an important moment as it transitions into a global superpower. Its citizens and leaders are right to be sceptical of how they're perceived on the world stage. But the great thing about weird architecture is that it helps set the stage for a larger culture of audacious experimentation. The permission to stay weird when it comes to urban design will help China move towards more permissive, free-thinking plans in other aspects of life. President Xi may not agree with me for that very reason. But believe me: Weird is a wonderful thing. [WSJ via Dezeen]