A violin-shaped church, an “upside-down” house, and a hotel modeled on a Russian doll are the architectures entering in a poll to name this year’s China’s “ugliest” buildings. After President Xi Jinping’s government issued a directive calling for an end to “oversized, xenocentric, weird” structures, a Chinese architecture website named Archcy.com has listed almost 90 contenders for the 12th edition of its annual Ugliest Buildings survey.
As per the public poll that had attracted more than 30,000 votes is a five arched gate at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. It is closely trailed by a glass bridge in Sichuan province that is suspended between sculptures of huge men and women wearing traditional costumes. Other architectures include a museum that looks like instant noodles and a 0.9-mile stretch of Shanghai towers.
The public can vote up to December, and a judging panel of architects, critics, and academics will announce the result. The architecture will be shortlisted based on nine criteria, including whether it is deemed “inharmonious” with the surroundings, or if its design is thought to have been plagiarized. A final selection of this year’s top 10 “ugliest” buildings will be announced at the end of the year. Poll “winners” in recent years have included a cultural center that looks like a crab. Also, a pedestrian bridge having a series of six oversized “diamonds.”
Well, the competition is tough and the country’s architects and developers now face tighter building codes and urban planning regulations. In 2014, president Xi criticized the construction of bizarre buildings at a Beijing literary symposium, and thus his government has since sought to regulate the country’s skylines.
In June 2020, China’s housing ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a powerful economic planning body, came up with a plan to end “copycat” buildings and skyscrapers taller than 1,640 feet. The NDRC released the height restriction and it also “strictly prohibits” the construction of “ugly” buildings. The government has also warned against demolishing historic buildings while encouraging designs that “highlight Chinese characteristics.
Fei Chen, a senior architecture professor specializing in urban policy at the UK’s Liverpool University said “Architects and urban designers may benefit from quite specific guidance on what good design is,” she said at the time of the housing ministry circular. “But this needs to be related to the local context, so I wouldn’t expect the national government to produce guidance like this. What works in one context may not work in another.”
She also added that there is a huge variation in architectural standards around the nation. She said “In east-coast cities, or more developed areas, architects have better design skills, so they produce better buildings. But in inland cities, you still see buildings that copy others’ styles or architectural languages, and that doesn’t result in very good design.”