Xi Jinping has made the enforcement of party discipline and service to the state a hallmark of his administration, and now it appears that China’s supreme leader is even trying to bring the country’s buildings into line.
China’s state council, the equivalent of the nation’s cabinet, issued a directive on Sunday commanding that urban building designs must be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye,” and should avoid being “oversized, xenocentric, weird.”
The new edict follows comments by Xi himself from October last year demanding that art should serve the people and suggesting that the country should do away with controversial new structures like Beijing’s Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV building and avoid “weird architecture.
Xi Says, They Do
Now the Chinese president’s words have become official regulations, although how exactly these new rules will be implemented, and who will be responsible for separating the weird from the pleasing to the eye has not yet been made clear.
During a two hour speech at a literary symposium in Beijing last year, where Xi apparently laid the groundwork for this week’s regulations the Chinese president echoed Mao in contending that art should serve the people. Xi, who recently has been declared the party’s “core” called for art to “be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles.”
During that same address, Xi singled out the landmark CCTV tower in Beijing for criticism. The structure, which won an award for Best Tall Building Worldwide from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2013, has been jokingly called the “big pants” by many locals.
China’s twenty year building boom has led to many unusual, and often less-inspired designs, however, including buildings designed to look like traditional coins, teapots and mythical birds.
In the past, approval of new building designs has been left up to local governments, however, the Xi administration now seems to think that such issues may best be decided from the centre. In many cases, China issues implementation guidelines for new laws following their official announcements, although there is no indication of how the State Council plans to legislate taste.
A Gallery of Interesting Architecture in China
Tearing Down the Gates?
In addition to the points on architecture, the new edict bans the construction of gated communities and calls for the gradual opening of existing developments to public access and traffic flow.
The rules against gated suburbs are said to be aimed at reducing traffic jams and China increasingly finds its roads clogged by the rapid rise in private car ownership.
Given that these gated communities are often home to China’s most privileged – and most well-connected – citizens, this new rule may be even harder to enforce than the architecture guidelines.