China’s skyscraper boom goes west
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China’s skyscraper boom goes west

By Tom Hancock

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has announced plans to build a more than 600 meters-tall skyscraper called called the “Diamond Mansion”, according to a report from Chinese independent media company Caixin. The announcement highlights a trend in high-rise construction away from China’s richer east coast cities towards the county’s interior, meaning those searching for China’s grandest views will soon have to look further-afield than Beijing and Shanghai.


The design for Guangzhou's "Diamond Mansion"

Western Chinese metropolis Chongqing is building two 500 meter tall towers, due to be completed in 2013 and 2015 respectively, according to the report. This week it emerged that a pair of US architects won the competition to design a 606 meter tower in Wuhan, Central China’s largest city. By comparison, the USA’s tallest building, the Willis tower in Chicago, is just 442 meters tall.

Within the next five years, China will have 800 skyscrapers, four times as many as the US, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “In the past, if American architects could participate in the building of two or three skyscraper projects in their lifetime, that was a great achievement,” Zhou Xuewang, head of China operations at Skidmore, Owens and Merrill, the firm responsible for the 450 meter tall Nanjing Greenland Financial Center, told the China Youth Daily. “But in China today, a designer can work on two or three skyscraper projects in a single year”.

Local governments see skyscrapers as a way of establishing their cities as financial centers, and are also competing with other cities for titles such as ‘”Home of Western China’s tallest building”, according to a report from Chinese magazine Southern Metropolitan Weekly. The rush to build upwards is contagious, it seems. Fangchenggang , a city of 1 million people in Guangxi province, has plans for a 528 meter tall skyscraper.

The wisdom of skyscraper development has been questioned by those who see the buildings as symbols of an overheated property market, and of mis-allocation of funds by local governments. “The taller you make a building, the longer it takes to make the money back, and the bigger the risk is,” SOM’s Zhou said. In some of the cities building skyscrapers “transport facilities aren’t at a level which matches these kinds of projects, and nor does the level of development” he said. Flooding in Wuhan last week showed the poor state of much of that city’s urban infrastructure.

Chinese skyscraper enthusiasts now have online forums where they can exchange pictures of the monoliths in their midst, but not everyone is happy about the government-financed race into the heavens. “This isn’t government officials’ money [they’re spending], its the blood and sweat of the taxpayers,” one commenter on Caixin’s website wrote. “According to the completion dates mentioned in the article, China’s economic crisis should be due by 2014” wrote another.

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