Xi Jinping calls for end to "weird architecture": 10 quirky buildings in China

China president Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for an end to "weird architecture", a product of the construction boom in the country which has drawn architects from all over the world.

Some unconventional and costly buildings there have sparked controversy, drawing criticisms of unappealing aesthetics and wasted public funds, reported AFP.

While some China netizens support Xi's call for "no more weird architecture", others have also voiced concerns that this might further curtail artistic freedom.

Here is a peek at 10 quirky-looking buildings in China that we might see less of in future.

1. Beijing Tianzi (Emperor) Hotel in Langfang, Hebei

Located in the suburbs of Beijing, this 10-storey hotel boasts a giant facade of Fu Lu Shou - the Chinese deities of happiness, prosperity and longevity.

Built in 2000 and standing at 41.6m, it holds the Guinness record for "world's biggest image building".

It was nonetheless voted the ugliest building in China in 2012, according to travel guide Frommers.

Interestingly, guests looking for a peachy time can literally check into Shou's peach, which contains a suite.

One entrance of the hotel is also located at the longevity god's right foot.

2. Wuliangye Building in Yibin, Sichuan

Wuliangye 1810

Basically a popular hard liquor produced by the Wuliangye group, the "bottle" is magnified to a height of 66.8 metres to house the company's headquarters.

A central elevator travels all the way up to the bottle cap, and the unique structure also serves as a navigation point for the nearby Laiba Airport.

According to Frommers, brand popularity shot up as a result of the larger than life replica, but it was also crowned the third ugliest building in China in 2012.

According to educational organisation Asia Society, a netizen wrote of the building on Chinese social networking site Kaixin001: "Sometimes under certain conditions and cultures it's good to use metaphorical design that brings rich humanitarianism and cultural heritage. But when you simply build a wine-bottle shaped building, it can be ridiculously ugly."

3. People's Daily headquarters in Beijing

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Erected in the capital's central business district, the 32-storey building bears an uncanny and unfortunate resemblance to a penis.

The phallic tower, to be completed this year at a cost of 1.5 billion yuan (S$312 million), was so widely mocked by netizens last year that the Chinese government censored the discussions.

However, its chief architect, local Zhou Qi, defended his design. He told the Sunday Morning Post that the mockery was politically-driven, rather than an aesthetic aversion to the male sexual organ.

"The whole controversy is not directed at us. It's actually a political debate in the sphere of ideology targeting People's Daily," he said, referring to how the newspaper is regarded as the ruling party's mouthpiece.

Zhou added that when completed and the scaffolding is removed, the tower will look less like a phallus.

But it seems even Zhou's final design has not been spared, with people likening it to a penguin, an electric iron and a juice dispenser, reported the South China Morning Post.

4. Fangyuan Mansion in Shenyang, Liaoning

This 25-storey commercial office building was designed by China-born C.Y. Lee - the same architect behind Taipei 101 in Taiwan, ranked the tallest building in the world until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

Completed in 2001, the circular facade with a square in the middle was inspired by ancient copper coins, which have come to symbolise wealth in Chinese tradition.

The building's moniker also complements its appearance: "fang yuan" literally means square-shaped and round.

Reviews of the mansion's appearance have been mixed. In 2012 it made CNN's list of 10 ugliest buildings in the world, but it was also crowned the most creative building at an architectural design convention in Venice.

5. China Central Television's headquarters in Beijing

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This building was designed by Holland-based architecture firm OMA as a "reinvention of the skyscraper as a loop", according to Arch Daily.

It consists of two slanting towers joined by sections on the ground and two horizontal sections at the top, forming a continuous loop.

The avant-garde building was voted as one of Time magazine's top 10 architectural miracles.

Locals, however, have taken to calling it "Big Underpants" because of how it looks from afar.

6. Wuhan Energy Flower in Wuhan, Hubei

-- PHOTO: COURTESY OF GRONTMIJ

Inspired by the Calla lily, this building was designed by firms Soeters Van Eldonk architects and Grontmij.

Construction began in 2010 and is due to be completed this year.

Reaching about 140 metres in height, the research institute for new energy sources and sustainability will have solar panels, wind turbines and a central chimney for ventilation.

The green theme is taken further with leaf-shaped laboratories that will surround the flower structure.

7. Guangzhou Circle in Guangzhou, Guangdong

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Shaped like a doughnut, this iconic building was helmed by Italian architect Joseph di Pasquale and completed in 2013.

Standing 33 storeys tall, it was inspired by double jade discs that were a royal symbol in ancient China.

The riverfront building is also intended to form an "8" shape when reflected in the water.

According to architecture portal Arch Daily, the building is also a reference to "quadratura del cerchio" or squaring the circle - a recurrent theme in the Italian Renaissance.

Inside, the 7,900 sq m space houses Guangdong's Hong Da Xing Ye Group and the Guangdong Plastic Exchange - the world's largest stock exchange for raw plastic material.

8. Beijing National Stadium in Beijing

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Perhaps one of the world's most iconic stadiums since it was built for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Shaped like a bird's nest, as it is commonly called, the stadium was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, as well as eminent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Costing 3.5 billion yuan (S$728 million) to build, the arena occupies more than 258,000 sq m and can seat 91,000 people.

9. Hisayoshi Centre in Shanghai

This boot-like building was supposed to resemble the letter L and embody Louis Vuitton, which is housed there along with other global luxury brands and offices.

Located in the Hongqiao business district, the 34-storey (134 metres), 140,000-square-metre complex was completed last year.

It has garnered plenty of flak from locals, who have mercilessly coined it "Riding Boot".

10. Pangu 7 Star Hotel in Beijing

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Part of a larger Pangu Plaza development, this luxury hotel in the heart of Beijing's Olympic Park has 234 rooms, including 140 suites.

It was also conceptualised by C.Y. Lee, the architect behind Taipei 101 in Taiwan and Fangyuan Mansion in Shenyang.

A sprawling 39,361 sq m, the building with its wavy top is meant to look like a dragon.

According to Luxury Insider magazine, fengshui played a crucial role in the design and location of this "dragon". Its "yang" apparently complements the "yin" of the Dragon Lake in the nearby National Forest Park.

Dragons also feature heavily in the hotel's decor, on its granite columns, and as motifs on its carpets, armchairs and lampshades.

In another mythological nod, the name of the hotel is derived from Pangu - the first living being and creator of the world in Chinese myths.

Sources: Arch Daily, The Culture Trip, China Daily USA, South China Morning Post, Emporis, Green Linked, Soeters Van Eldonk, AFP, Frommers, Asia Society, The Daily Mail, Emerge Film Solutions, Building.am, Reuters, HugChina, GBTimes, Business Pundit, Luxury Insider

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg