With China’s high level of exports and booming real estate market, it is predicted that the country is on its way to becoming the world leader in economic performance. As a result, the Chinese government has been taking steps to show the world its growing economy and the newfound modernity that has come with it. China’s largest cities have already spent hundreds of billions of dollars on new development and infrastructure projects, ranging all the way from from roads, bridges and buildings to new financial districts. In fact, the country is expected to lay down a total of 4.7 billion square feet of construction in this year alone. More information after the break.
In order to meet the demands of these unprecedented construction efforts, China has been hiring foreign firms to come in and execute their designs for the undeveloped land. Firms from countries like Europe and the United States are moving a portion of their employees to new offices in growing Chinese cities to take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in their growth. By doing so, these offices hope to not only escape the economic hardship in their own countries, but also gain increased publicity for their company name and earn the chance to create plans for huge developments that there simply isn’t enough space for in other parts of the world. Architect, Frank Gehry, already has set plans for a residential development overlooking the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, Gensler opened a new office in Beijing, where the firm designed the 128-story Shanghai Tower, KPF has had close to a dozen projects lined up for work in China since the completion of the Shanghai World Financial Center, OMA is bringing in more employees to work in their new headquarters in Hong Kong while keeping its office already established in Beijing, while Arup Associates and HOK both have three offices open in China.
The Chinese hope that the prestige the new buildings bring to their budding cities will outweigh the high costs of the well-established firms’ ambitious designs. However, there are already high levels of criticism regarding the foreigners’ effects on the changing skyline of China. Whether it be the CCTV tower (Dutch), the Shanghai Tower (American), or the National Centre for the Performing Arts (French), many Chinese citizens worry that the foreigners are using the vast amounts of land set aside for new development as an opportunity for frivolous experimentation.
There have also been numerous concerns that the incoming architects are not knowledgeable enough about the history, cultures and environments present in China to design for them. Many have argued that the new designs are inconsistent with the Chinese way of life, and the rapid pace at which these new designs are being realized has not been of much consolation to flustered citizens. Though the quick hurdle into modernity that the Chinese are trying to achieve is bound to bring a number of financial challenges, clearly the nation’s continued advancement is not just a matter of whether the Chinese economy can continue to support such rapid and extravagant development. The citizens must also be ready and able to adapt to the lifestyle changes that the foreign designers are introducing to China’s growing cities. Photographs: Flickr: slavecky, kanegen, poeloq, mklapper References: New York Times, Architect Magazine