China’s bad architecture: voting begins in annual ‘top 10 ugliest buildings’ competition

21-Sep-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Since 2010 Chinese architecture website has been holding an annual vote for the “Top 10 Ugliest Buildings” in China. The website said that the goal is to: “spark discussion about the beauty and ugliness of architecture and promote architects’ social responsibility”.

As China has undergone rapid urbanisation over the past 40 years, numerous ambitious projects have ended up as follies and eyesores. Many have been denounced by the public from the “giant trousers” structure of the China Central Television headquarters in Beijing to the half-Temple of Heaven, half-US Capitol building in nearby Hebei province.

The list has proved so successful at drawing attention to bad architecture it has even prompted a government response. In April this year, China issued a ban on “ugly architecture”, nearly seven years after President Xi Jinping famously criticised the “weird” buildings popping up across China over the last few decades.

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning body, said local governments should make sure buildings are “suitable, economical, green and pleasing to the eye”, without elaborating on what could be considered an “ugly building”.

It has directly led to the start of the removal of a 58-metre tall statue of the famous Chinese general Guan Yu in central China last week.

This year, the nomination for the ugliest buildings in China has already begun, with the final results due in December. Let us take a look at some of the buildings currently shortlisted:

‘Welcome to hell’: Jiuhuangshan Glass Bridge in Mianyang, Sichuan province

The Jiuhuangshan scenic park built this bridge in 2019 connecting two mountains to save tourists the trouble of trekking up and down the two slopes. However, at either end of the bridge were two massive statues of people in ethnic clothing. The public labelled them “very terrifying” and said the statues look like: “they are welcoming people to hell”.

Violin-shaped church in Foshan, Guangdong province

This bizarre-looking church cost 200 million yuan (US$31 million) to build and on completion pictures of the structure went viral. Many tourists went to the village specifically to take photos of the church. “Maybe it would look better next to a building shaped like a piano,” one online commenter said.

Gate to nowhere: the southern gate of Zhejiang University in Zhejiang province

This gate has six pillars and was built using crowdfunded donations from alumni. It had the words “Zhejiang University” in the middle and the core values of the school carved on each pillar. However, most felt that it only served a ceremonial purpose, as the gate is next to some vegetable fields and a river and leads nowhere; no one ever uses it.

Triggering magic carpet ride: Xian international children’s art centre in Shaanxi province

With a design based on the magic flying carpet from the Aladdin tale, the entire centre looks like it is draped in multiple colourful blankets. The public remains highly divided on this building, many said it inspired the imagination, especially from a child’s point of view, while others said it invites trypophobia, an unofficially recognised mental disorder that involves an aversion to the sight of irregular patterns.

The babushka dolls are watching you: Matryoshka Hotel in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia

The hotel is the biggest in the region, with three buildings on the site. The first building is the largest babushka doll themed architecture in the world at 72 metres tall. However, tourists found it creepy: “Whether you’re dining, sleeping, walking, the dolls will be watching you”.


Category: China

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