Chinese and French architects attending the Sino-French Architectural Forum here Thursday aired opinions on city and architectural development in China.
Zhang Yu, vice president of the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD), said government officials and architects should pay more attention to protecting the regional character of China's city planning.
"We need to negotiate the relationship between tradition and innovation," he said.
Since 1982, China has classified 99 cities as "historic cities," but most of them are losing their distinctive ancient features in urban reconstruction and real estate development. Many ruins and ancient streets risk being demolished at any moment.
In Beijing, the "hutongs" or alleys, which make the traditional framework of a Chinese city, are disappearing at a rate of 600 per year.
Liu Kaiji, the consultative architect with BIAD, supported Zhang's opinion by taking Beijing for example.
"People in other countries love Beijing for its traditional brilliant architecture, such as The Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven. Any building is part of the city ... and must be consistent with its context," he said.
The soon-to-be-completed China National Opera House in Beijing, designed by French architect Paul Andreu, has sparkled fierce controversy in China.
Opponents say the "bulky and bizarre" building is out of tune with its surroundings, and overshadows The Great Hall of the People, a symbol of majesty of communist China.
A French architect, Bertrand Lemoine, a member of the Association of French Export Architects, said regarding the surroundings highly is one of the French architecture features all the time, and French architects working in China are also trying to learn the traditional culture here.
He said China's city development has been following an "American pattern," characterized by very tall buildings at large intervals. He recommended the French pattern, characterized by continuous and relatively low buildings.
"The latter model, which can provide nice daylighting and abundant public space, is more suitable for China's cities," he said.
Wu Liangyong, a veteran academician of both the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Engineering of China, said Chinese architects should learn from their French counterparts in the cultural and scientific taste, the spirit of the times and creativity.
In addition, Zhang Yu, put forward an aim of "economic architectural design" for Chinese cities.
According Zhang, among the buildings of 14 billion square meters in cities across the country, only those of 320 million square meters can be classified as economic, with the others energy-guzzling, accounting for about 95 percent.
"We must build houses which consume energy with high efficiency.At the same time, the quality of the construction should be ensured," he said.