Sun, Mar 04, 2007 - Page 5 News List

PRC cracks down on costly foreign architecture trend

BEIJING

China is to crack down on "blindly" using foreign architects to design major public buildings as part of a drive to stifle costly architectural extravanganzas, state media reported yesterday.

The Construction Ministry has unveiled rules to deter officials from backing public buildings that waste money and electricity, Xinhua news agency reported.

A ministry spokesman said excessive enthusiasm for foreign designs was part of the problem.

"In recent years, in some places there's been a fever for international tenders for major public buildings, especially landmark projects," the unnamed spokesman said, according to the Chinese government's official Web site.

"Some foreign architects are divorced from China's national conditions and single-mindedly pursue novelty, oddity and uniqueness," the spokesman said.

China's feverish economic growth and the capital's preparations for the 2008 Olympics have underwritten a burst of spectacular but controversial buildings designed by non-local architects.

Among those under construction are the towering headquarters of China's central state television service, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and a National Theater in the political heart of Beijing -- a science-fiction metal and glass dome conceived by Frenchman Paul Andreu.

Xinhua reported in 2004 that Koolhaas' design would cost about US$750 million. These and other foreign designs have been derided by local critics for their cost and lack of traditional local flavor.

The ministry spokesman said new rules did not block foreign designers from bidding for big projects, but they sought to add "transparency" so local designers were kept in the running.

The regulations target officials channelling public money into "image projects" that "ignore national conditions and financial capacity", the spokesman said.

Major public buildings occupy less than 4 percent of urban built-up areas but use up 20 percent of electricity in such areas, the spokesman said.

The new rules demand that selection of designs focuses on cutting energy and water bills.

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