While Kazakhstan has certainly given China a run for its money in recent years, no one quite does aggressively big ‘n’ bonkers modern architecture like the PRC. No one.
However, a new directive issued by the Chinese government’s State Council officially puts the kibosh on the construction of edifices best described as “oversized, xenocentric and weird.”
Yes, China — a normally outlandish architecture-embracing nation where you can spend the night in a hotel that looks like this — is, in fact, reining it in as the government looks to embrace architectural austerity and uniformity.
Per the directive, a directive that seems outright un-Chinese in its restraint, buildings should be “economical, functional and aesthetically pleasing” as well as environmentally sustainable and reflective of Chinese culture. Buildings that do not meet these standards will be forbidden, and I'm guessing works of programmatic architecture will face particular scrutiny. So long, 10-story teapots ...
The Chinese government is making this move — one that may seem odd but that’s not entirely unexpected — to help curbed “problems associated with increasing urbanization and the explosion of city sizes.”
While the link between flamboyant architecture and the myriad ills — “pollution, severe traffic congestion and compromised public safety” to name a few listed by the State Council — brought about by unchecked urbanization may not be immediately apparent, officials believe that
quashing innovation and creativity scaling back architecturally will serve as a remedy.
He adds: “The [new] policy is heading in a good direction.”
In addition to cracking down on buildings that tip the scales of ostentation, the Communist government is also pushing for low-cost and low-waste prefabricated building methods, noting that 30 percent of all new buildings will be prefab within the next 10 years. Gated residential communities will also cease to exist — that is, no more will be built and existing ones will eventually be stripped of their gates.
While Chinese citizens have yet to actively bemoan the fact that there will be no more trouser-shaped office towers or faux Austrian villages, the doing-away off gated communities has already generated a fair amount of backlash.
What’s more, existing illegal structures, no matter how crazy-photogenic, will no longer be subject to bureaucratic blind eyes:
To further monitor urban sprawl, governments should 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, the document said.
Remote satellite sensing? Yikes.
The edict was prompted by the Central Urban Work Conference, a meeting held this past December with the goal of establishing a blueprint for smarter and more sustainable urban development. The last time the conference was held was in 1978, when 18 percent of the Chinese population resided in cities. Currently, that figure is roughly 50 percent.
Urban population growth aside, it's sobering to visualize what an outright ban on grandiose architecture in China would mean …
Would it mean no more knockoff Eiffel Towers?
Or no more $100 million tech campuses designed to resemble the USS Enterprise?
Netdragon Websoft headquarters, Fuzhou, Fujian province. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Would we see a lot less of Zaha Hadid in China?
Zaha Hadid-designed Galaxy SOHO complex, Beijing. (Photo: Rob Deutscher /flickr)
Along with fewer blatant Zahah Hadid copycats?
Will Rem Koolhaas' "Big Pants" no longer be a good fit?
And does Bjarke Ingels even stand a chance?
What about concert halls that look like, well, this?
And multi-purpose arenas that appear to have originated in a galaxy far, far away?
Does this mean the end of glitzy 'n' golden circular skyscrapers?
And the end of skybridge orgies?
Steven Holl-designed Linked Hybrid complex, Beijing (Photo: Rob Deutscher /flickr)
Will this be China's first and last horseshoe-shaped Sheraton?
Will Chinese TV-cum-observation towers now be 100 percent less fun?
What, pray tell, will become of China's penchant for ersatz European castles?
And quaint (cloned) English villages?
Goodbye.CNN], [New York Times]