Architecture

China puts the brakes on its supertall skyscraper boom

China puts the brakes on its s...
Moshe Safdie's almost-complete Raffles City Chongqing includes a cluster of eight skyscrapers, plus a "horizontal" skyscraper that serves as a skybridge
Moshe Safdie's almost-complete Raffles City Chongqing includes a cluster of eight skyscrapers, plus a "horizontal" skyscraper that serves as a skybridge
View 15 Images
The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building
1/15
The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building
Leeza Soho, by Zaha Hadid Architects, rises to a height of 207 m (679 ft) in Beijing
2/15
Leeza Soho, by Zaha Hadid Architects, rises to a height of 207 m (679 ft) in Beijing
Zaha Hadid Architects' Leeza Soho has won multiple awards for its stunning design and energy efficiency
3/15
Zaha Hadid Architects' Leeza Soho has won multiple awards for its stunning design and energy efficiency
Moshe Safdie's almost-complete Raffles City Chongqing includes a cluster of eight skyscrapers, plus a "horizontal" skyscraper that serves as a skybridge
4/15
Moshe Safdie's almost-complete Raffles City Chongqing includes a cluster of eight skyscrapers, plus a "horizontal" skyscraper that serves as a skybridge
Raffles City Chongqing's horizontal skyscraper measures 300 m (984 ft) in length
5/15
Raffles City Chongqing's horizontal skyscraper measures 300 m (984 ft) in length
CITIC Tower (aka China Zun), by KPF, is located in Beijing and reaches a maximum height of 1,732 ft (527 m). It's the 9th-tallest building in the world
6/15
CITIC Tower (aka China Zun), by KPF, is located in Beijing and reaches a maximum height of 1,732 ft (527 m). It's the 9th-tallest building in the world
CITIC Tower's attractive curtain wall flares up and out at its base
7/15
CITIC Tower's attractive curtain wall flares up and out at its base
The China Resources Headquarters, by KPF, is located in Shenzhen, China, and rises to a height of 400 m (1,312 ft)
8/15
The China Resources Headquarters, by KPF, is located in Shenzhen, China, and rises to a height of 400 m (1,312 ft)
According to KPF, the China Resources Headquarters is one the few skyscrapers in the world in which people can actually visit its highest point
9/15
According to KPF, the China Resources Headquarters is one the few skyscrapers in the world in which people can actually visit its highest point
KPF's Ping An Finance Centre reaches a height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft), making it the 4th-tallest building in the world
10/15
KPF's Ping An Finance Centre reaches a height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft), making it the 4th-tallest building in the world
Only the Burj Khalifa, Shanghai Tower, and Makkah Royal Clock Tower are in front of Shenzhen's Ping An Finance Centre in the world's-tallest skyscraper rankings
11/15
Only the Burj Khalifa, Shanghai Tower, and Makkah Royal Clock Tower are in front of Shenzhen's Ping An Finance Centre in the worlds-tallest skyscraper rankings
The MGM Cotai, by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, was recently declared the world's best new skyscraper by information specialist Emporis during its annual Skyscraper Award
12/15
The MGM Cotai, by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, was recently declared the world's best new skyscraper by information specialist Emporis during its annual Skyscraper Award
The MGM Cotai is a US$3.4 billion casino and hotel resort in Macau that rises to a height of 495 ft (150 m)
13/15
The MGM Cotai is a US$3.4 billion casino and hotel resort in Macau that rises to a height of 495 ft (150 m)
The Shanghai World Financial Center rises to a height of 492 m (1,614 ft) and is the world's 11th-tallest building
14/15
The Shanghai World Financial Center rises to a height of 492 m (1,614 ft) and is the world's 11th-tallest building
KPF'S Shanghai World Financial Center features a trapezoid section with an impressive observation point allowing visitors to walk and take in the view of Shanghai from almost half a kilometer up
15/15
KPF'S Shanghai World Financial Center features a trapezoid section with an impressive observation point allowing visitors to take in the view of Shanghai from almost half a kilometer above the ground
View gallery - 15 images

China boasts more of the world's tallest skyscrapers than any other country, but this may not be the case in the future following a new policy by the Chinese government limiting construction on new tall buildings. The policy also officially bans the construction of copycat architecture.

The ban on copycat architecture is no surprise and follows a directive to that effect four years ago. The new statement, released by China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, says (in Chinese, via Google Translate) "Building plagiarism, imitation, and copycat behavior are strictly prohibited."

The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building
The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building

The change to tall building construction is more significant. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development says that really tall skyscrapers – that is, those over 500 m (1,640 ft) in height, like the Shanghai Tower – will not "generally" be permitted. Towers over 250 m (820 ft) in height will be "strictly restricted" too, and those that are deemed absolutely necessary will be closely reviewed.

"Generally, new buildings over 500 meters are not allowed to be built," says the statement (again via Google Translate). "If special constructions are needed in various places, special demonstrations and strict examinations on fire protection, earthquake resistance, and energy saving should be carried out."

Up to now, the rate of construction of tall buildings in China has been astonishing. While the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is located in Dubai, China holds the second, fourth, joint seventh, ninth and tenth-tallest positions. Indeed, according to the official rankings of the CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat), 11 of the top 20 world's tallest buildings are located in China. To put that into perspective, the US has just one, the One World Trade Center, and Europe also has one, the Lakhta Center.

KPF's Ping An Finance Centre, in Shenzhen, is the world's fourth-tallest skyscraper and measures a total height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft)
KPF's Ping An Finance Centre, in Shenzhen, is the world's fourth-tallest skyscraper and measures a total height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft)

The explanation for the decision is a little vague in translation, but the statement makes mention of a need to further strengthen the management of architectural features and to construct "economical, green, and beautiful" buildings that "embody the spirit of the city, represent the style of the times, and highlight Chinese characteristics."

Time will tell whether or not the new policy will be strictly enforced, or if there will be special exceptions. Whatever happens, China has hosted many of the world's most interesting skyscrapers over the years and to celebrate these we've picked a few of our favorites in the gallery.

Source: Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development [in Chinese]

View gallery - 15 images
3 comments
guzmanchinky
"No copycat"? From China? That is interesting. My guess is that if you want to build a really tall building, and wish for "special exemptions", it will cost great deal of money. China has truly become a world superpower (who knows what that is these days) but it feels like it's too fast, too loose, too fragile. They have so many people the only place to build in cities is up, which makes for some very cool architecture...
Ben Wah
"highlight Chinese characteristics" I thought that was wiped out during the cultural revolution. When china started modernizing, they mostly bulldozed old buildings.
buzzclick
China has built an incredible amount of (mostly) amazing architecture in the past decade or two, unmatched by anyone. Their economy has expanded exponentially since the 1980's, but this boom couldn't last indefinitely. Especially since global dynamics are changing so quickly, it must regroup its objectives and focus on the well-being of the most populous nation on Earth. The scope and breadth of its capabilities is truly astonishing, but it would be of no use if its economy comes crashing. @Ben Wah...show me a country that didn't modernize by demolishing some of its old buildings. Oh right, Dubai and its Burj Kalifa has made instant skyscrapers a national pastime. Nah, let's trash China instead.