New Must-See Architecture in China

The Great Wall. The Forbidden City. Ancient City of Ping Yao. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Historic Monuments of Dengfeng. Yes, indeed, China has a laundry list of ancient architectural icons.

The new architectural landscape of the People’s Republic, however, may yet produce more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than the Ming Dynasty. And this time ’round, many of the big-ticket commissions are in the hands of foreign firms – although, more and more, a nascent crop of homegrown outfits are poaching choice projects from Pritzker alumni.

With that, check out eight recently-completed projects in China of note.


New Guangdong Provincial Museum, Guangzhou – Photo credit

Sliced Porosity Block
Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl’s fingerprints are all over China, from the Linked Hybrid complex in Beijing to the Horizontal Skyscraper of Shenzhen. The Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu’s new Raffles City is a hybrid structure that takes advantage of the precise geometry of sun angles.

Where to stay: Fraser Suites Chengdu

Chengdu City Guide

Ningbo Historic Museum
Wang Shu

Showpiece museums are de rigueur in culturally aspirant urban China. The Ningbo Historic Museum is a prime exemplar and one of the reasons architect Wang Shu was the first Chinese citizen to win the Pritzker.

Where to stay: Sheraton Ningbo Hotel

Ningbo City Guide

Urban Tolou
Urbanus Architects

The best new architecture in China is not the sole purview of skyscrapers, government developments and museums. Witness the Urban Tolou of Guangzhou, a low-income residential complex with fortress-like walls that evokes 17th century Hakka design.

Where to stay: The Ritz Carlton Hotel Guangzhou

Guangzhou City Guide

Dalian International Conference Center
Coop Himmelb(l)au

The vital port city of Dalian chose Coop Himmelb(l)au, a creative firm from Vienna, to design the spectacular, sci-fi-like, new International Conference Center. The crown jewel of the project is a theatre and concert hall that can accommodate 1,600 spectators.

Where to stay: Shangri-La Hotel Dalian

Dalian City Guide

Tianmen Mountain Restaurant
Liu Chong

Restaurant architecture rarely makes critics swoon in China but the Tianmen Mountain Restaurant in popular tourist city Guilin is a fab exception. The riverside restaurant blends harmoniously with the lush natural environment and, as such, doubles as an observation post.

Where to stay: Shangri-La Hotel Guilin

Guilin City Guide

Greenland Plaza
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

SOM’s imprint is all-pervasive in China (just take a look at the firm’s list of future commitments in the country). One development in the “done and done” column is the tallest – and most conspicuous – skyscraper in the capital of Henan province.

Where to stay: Sofitel Hotel Zhengzhou

Zhengzhou City Guide

Phoenix International Media Center
Biad UFo

The Phoenix International Media Center, as Biad UFo calls it, is a “multipurpose and comprehensive architecture with functions of television programming, offices and business.” Hmmm … that seems a little vague. What we like to call it is an impossible-to-ignore, chrysalis-like structure that looks like a Blade Runner set.

Where to stay: Ascott Raffles City Beijing

Beijing City Guide

Shanghai Oriental Sports Center
Von Gerkan, Marg & Partners Architects

Shanghai’s before-and-after over the past two decades is easily one of the most impressive urban transmutations ever. Built mainly for the 14th FINA World Championships in 2011, the Shanghai Aquatic (or Oriental) Sports Center is a magnetic multipurpose arena in Pudong. Designer Von Gerkan, Marg & Partners is the same creative force behind Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Berlin Central Station and the National Museum of China refurb in Beijing.

Where to stay: Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai

Shanghai City Guide

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