There are 87 odd ideas in the running for China’s top 10 “ugliest” structures, including a violin-shaped cathedral and an Inner Mongolia hotel fashioned like a gigantic babushka doll.
Archcy.com, a Chinese architectural website, has been asking people to vote in a humorous yearly contest for the last 11 years, with the aim of encouraging people to think about the flexible concept of beauty.
China has been a test bed for ambitious local and foreign architects for years, with varied outcomes. The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas built a national broadcaster facility in Beijing that Chinese social media users refer to as “big pants” because it resembles a pair of legs.
A strange east-meets-west structure at an unfinished Hebei theme park has one side that resembles China’s Temple of Heaven and the other half that resembles Capitol Hill in the United States.
A “welcome to hell” glass bridge linking two mountains in Sichuan that scares hikers with two huge sculptures of people in traditional attire at the end, and a large gate in a Yunnan park that resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, are among this year’s candidates.
The poll was held to “provoke thinking about the beauty and ugliness of architecture and promote architects’ social responsibility,” according to the competition’s organizers. Some of China’s leading architectural critics and companies have collaborated with the website.
This year’s competition coincides with the federal government’s increasing architectural prescriptiveness. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued an order in April prohibiting the construction of “ugly structures.”
Beijing’s top economic planning agency encouraged local governments to guarantee that structures were “suitable, economical, green, and pleasing to the eyes,” but it did not define “ugly” architecture.
It isn’t the first time the Chinese government has intervened to control the appearance of structures. According to the Global Times, China’s ministry of housing and urban-rural development collaborated with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) last year to release a paper outlining how to improve architectural management in Chinese cities.
They came to the conclusion that big structures with unusual designs were “a waste of resources.”
China’s internet users were even more intrigued by the government involvement. #BanningUglyArchitecture has been watched 170 million times on Weibo. Users have also started uploading pictures of what they perceive to be “unattractive buildings” from all across the nation.
Students from Zhejiang University in eastern China are among them. They’ve been grumbling about the university’s massive southern gate, which was funded by alumni contributions.
Six pillars and five arches make up the gate. Students claim the gate is unfit for its intended function, and they have voted it this year’s “ugliest” architecture.
The gate has received 8,739 votes so far, putting it at the top of this year’s list of the ugliest structures.