An economic development plan issued by the Beijing government in April encouraged administrations to approve the construction of buildings that are “suitable, economical, green and pleasing to the eyes”. This is not the first time this has happened, in fact a year ago – as reported by the Global Times – in China the Ministry of Urban-Rural Development published a document in which it defined eccentric buildings as a “waste of resources”. The discussion about the taste of public and private buildings in China is the result of years of architectural experiments, promoted by Asian and Western architects, who have identified China as a place where they can experiment very strange projects, as reported by the Guardian.
The crucial point here is: how do you define when something is ugly? If we’re talking about churches designed as if they were violins or the Babushka doll-shaped hotel, it’s easy to be in agreement. If not, we need a jury, or perhaps a competition, like the one held by the architecture magazine Archy.
The Chinese magazine for the twelfth year launched in April a vote collection open to the public to declare the ten worst buildings in China, from which will come out a winner. This year in the race there are 87 skyscrapers, shopping malls, universities or temples, like the one in the abandoned theme park in Hebei, half traditional Asian and half inspired by the Capitol in Washington, to create a link between the two cultures.
The competition is not a trivial initiative as it may seem, it is not a freak show of oddities, but a way to cultivate critical thinking in citizens about the ugliness of architecture. Archy hopes that doing so will increase the sense of social responsibility of construction companies and young architects.
The competition in 2021 has already succeeded in creating a debate. In fact, in recent months on Weibo the hashtag #BanningUglyArchitecture has appeared, seen 170 million times in particular under the photo of the door of Zhejiang University. The students in their own way denounced the construction of the giant arched door, built thanks to donations from alumni and considered inappropriate. Obviously the viral shock made the door jump to the first place of the ranking with 8881 points, five thousand more than the creepy statue on the glass bridge of Jiuhuangshan mountain in Mianyang, Sichuan.
The public will be able to vote until November but the popular opinion will weigh only 40% of the total. The remaining 60% in fact will depend on a jury composed of critics, architectural firms, professors and urban planners, confirming that The 12th China Ugliest Building Survey wants to be a real moment of criticism and debate on architecture in China.