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With rapid urbanization, China builds more skyscrapers than the rest of the world combined!  Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bizarre and questionable designs among them.

China’s President Xi Jinping issued a government directive calling for an end to “oversized, xenocentric, and weird” structures in 2014.  But apparently some folks still had not gotten the memo!

A tongue-in-cheek survey by a Chinese architecture website holds an annual “ugliest buildings” competition.  The public poll for the 12th annual edition of Ugliest Building Survey has attracted more than 30,000 votes by late September.  Public voting will remain open until end-November and accounts for 40% of the final decision.  In December, a panel of architects, critics and academics will weigh in and evaluate all entries based on nine criteria, including harmony with surroundings, design originality, building functionality, overall design, etc.  Winners, or losers, depending on how you want to look at it, will be announced at the end of the year.

Among the 90 contenders submitted so far are a violin-shaped church, a hotel that looks like a giant Russian babushka doll, a glass bridge with suspension cable towers that are a giant couple dressed in traditional costumes with outstretched arms, and a museum that resembles cups of ramen noodle.

All this good fun may come to a screeching halt as China’s housing ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission issued another circular calling for an end to “copycat" buildings and skyscrapers taller than 1,640 feet.  The height restriction was reiterated in early 2021 while emphasizing the need to “strictly prohibit” construction of “ugly” buildings.  Alas, ugliness, as in beauty, is in the eye of the beholder! 

According to a senior architecture professor specializing in urban policy at UK's Liverpool University, new guidelines provide a broad framework for cities, but finer details must be resolved at a local level.

"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."



Rankings of China’s ugly buildings as of late September

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A five-arched gate on Zhejiang University campus

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Church in Foshan, Guangdong Province

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Manchuria Ritova Hotel, Inner Mongolia

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Xi'an International Children's Art Museum

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Henghai Flower Island Complex, Hainan Province

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Shanghai port of Eurovision town,

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Ping Baoli Square, Shandong Province

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Guiyang Flower Orchard Art Center, Guizhou




And here are the 2020 winner and runner-up


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The 2020 winner of China’s “Ugliest Building” is the Rongcheng Grand Theatre in Guangzhou.  Why it deserved the title: random collage of Chinese elements, grotesque form, hurt the image of the city.!

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Jilin Yanbian Changbai Mountain Long Day Resort is 2020’s runner-up.  Reasons listed for ranking: rigid form, scale imbalance, waste huge.


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