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Retail architecture

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

10:34, October 23, 2012

Gate of the Orient in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province (Photo/Xinhua)

Contentious buildings rattle netizens, please insiders

Before controversy over the "pants" building in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province even faded, the gymnasium and natatorium of the Hangzhou Olympic and International Expo Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province aroused public discourse again for its resemblance to a bikini top.

Recently, there seems to be a clash between newly constructed buildings and the public reaction in China. A quick online search shows a large collection of so-called "ugly" domestic buildings, all under public scrutiny. But insiders usually praise such architecture.

"People, particularly professionals and amateurs, often differ in their opinion about a building. There is a misunderstanding among the public. They are prone to judge architecture like a painting or sculpture while the owner of the building treats it like an advertisement," Zhang Yonghe, an architect and professor at MIT and Tongji University, told Global Times at a dialogue held by Stiftung Mercator on Sunday in Beijing's 798 Art Zone.

Related: Prevent 'ugly buildings' from tarnishing cities

Bottom and top

The "pants" building in question is the Gate of the Orient, which lies along Jinji Lake in Suzhou and will be finished next year. The 301.8-meter-high 69-floor skyscraper is regarded as the biggest gate-shaped building in the world. In late August, the Gate of the Orient became infamous overnight, when a member of the project posted a picture of the building online.

Netizens posted that the shape of the building resembled a pair of pants. "Are you sure the building is not the Levi's headquarters in Asia-Pacific?" one netizen ridiculed. Some say the new headquarters of China Central Television in Beijing, jokingly referred to as "giant underpants," is no longer alone.

The Gate of the Orient was influenced by ancient city gates and the historical and iconic architecture in Suzhou, signifying its connection between modern and ancient times. The complex will reportedly include a hotel, office building, shopping mall and more. Despite this link, the public finds the building in violation of the city's cultural history dating back to over 2,000 years. Some say the building disregards Suzhou's local architecture.

Meanwhile, the new gymnasium and natatorium of the Hangzhou Olympic and International Expo Center is being dubbed the "bikini top," as it resembles a woman's swim top from an aerial view. "The pants in Suzhou and underpants in Beijing are both outdated," netizens joked.

Several days ago, a building in Shenyang, Liaoning Province rallied the public again with its resemblance to a pair of "gold underpants."

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