Sky City Changsha

Party paper calls for end to tall building frenzy

Vain local government officials blamed for rush to dot landscape with huge skycrapers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 3:55am

The party's mouthpiece ran a full-page report yesterday that questioned the mainland's aggressive skyscraper push in recent years, attributing it to vain local government officials.

The commentary in the People's Daily came amid controversy over the planned 838-metre Sky City in Changsha, Hunan, which would be the world's tallest building once it is completed. Last week, media reported on the topping-out ceremony for the second-tallest building in the world: the 632-metre Shanghai Tower.

Meanwhile, small or medium-sized cities with small service sectors but abundant land resources are competing to build ambitious skyscrapers to secure "first high-rise" bragging rights to their region, the report said.

The competition has been so fierce some buildings, which were originally proposed to be among the tallest buildings in the world, may not even be among the top 10 when completed.

Most of the mainland's tallest buildings have received financial support from local officials. The report cited the Goldin Finance 117 building in Tianjin , which will be 597 metres tall when completed, and Nanjing's 450-metre Zifeng Tower.

Despite the building's hefty costs with little chance of developers recovering their investment, interest is still high in the projects because local governments have promised developers cheap, if not free, land in economic development zones in exchange for building there.

The buildings were the result of the ambitions of mayors, not the product of market demand, with vanity determining city skylines, the report said.

To a city's administration, building a skyscraper is an easy way to show "face". Ma Long , an architect with the Beijing Institute of Architecture Design, was quoted by the party mouthpiece as saying: "We are too eager to express ourselves, too desperate for recognition from others."

However, Professor Jiang Yong , who teaches architecture at Tsinghua University, questioned whether state media was overreacting to the projects.

"The lack of high-rises in urban centres not only results in a severe waste of land, but also increases real estate prices, due to limits on supply. If Beijing had as many skyscrapers as Hong Kong, people could spend less time commuting," Jiang said.