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.

Noting that the government should follow up with a more detailed definition of what exactly constitutes “weird," Liu Shilin, head of the Institute of Urban Science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, tells the South Morning China Post that many of China’s wackier new buildings “do not have much value in terms of use, and cost a lot to operate and maintain. Quite a few were torn down soon after completion.”

He adds: “The [new] policy is heading in a good direction.”

Ordos Museum and Library, Ordos City, Inner MongoliaWelcome to Ordos: Even the ghost cities in Inner Mongolia are filled with eye-popping architectural razzle-dazzle. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

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?

Eiffel Tower replica at the largely empty Tianducheng development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang provinceEiffel Tower replica at the Tianducheng housing development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Or no more $100 million tech campuses designed to resemble the USS Enterprise?

Netdragon Websoft HQ, Fuzhou, Fujian provinceNetdragon Websoft headquarters, Fuzhou, Fujian province. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Would we see a lot less of Zaha Hadid in China?

The Zaha Hadid-designed Galaxy SOHO complex, BeijingZaha Hadid-designed Galaxy SOHO complex, Beijing. (Photo: Rob Deutscher /flickr)
Along with fewer blatant Zahah Hadid copycats?

Meiquan 22nd Century Building, ChongqingMeiquan 22nd Century Building, Chongqing (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Rem Koolhaas' "Big Pants" no longer be a good fit?

OMA-designed CCTV Building, Beijing OMA-designed CCTV Building, Beijing. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

And does Bjarke Ingels even stand a chance?

Bjarke Ingels Group's unrealized REN building concept for ShanghaiBjarke Ingels Group's unrealized REN building concept for Shanghai. (Rendering: BIG)

What about concert halls that look like, well, this?

 Shenyang Culture and Art Center, Shenyang, Liaoning province Shenyang Culture and Art Center, Shenyang, Liaoning province. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

And multi-purpose arenas that appear to have originated in a galaxy far, far away?

Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai (Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Does this mean the end of glitzy 'n' golden circular skyscrapers?

Circle Building, Guangzhou, Guangdong provinceCircle Building, Guangzhou, Guangdong province. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

And the end of skybridge orgies?

Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid complex, BeijingSteven Holl-designed Linked Hybrid complex, Beijing (Photo: Rob Deutscher /flickr)

Will this be China's first and last horseshoe-shaped Sheraton?

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort, Huzhou Zhejiang provinceSheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort, Huzhou Zhejiang province (Photo: Starwood Hotels)

Will Chinese TV-cum-observation towers now be 100 percent less fun?

The Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower, Shanghai The Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower, Shanghai. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

What, pray tell, will become of China's penchant for ersatz European castles?

A faux European castle in Chongqing, China, commissioned by Liu ChonghuaToto, I don't think we're in Chongqing anymore. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

And quaint (cloned) English villages?

Thames Thai, Shanghai Thames Town, Shanghai. (Photo: China Photos/Getty Images)


National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing.National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing. (Photo: Gou Yige/AFP/Getty Images)

Via [SCMP], [CNN], [New York Times]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

China to tone it down (architecturally speaking)
Prepare to say zàij iàn to 'oversized, xenocentric and weird' buildings.