Some people might consider a violin-shaped church or a hotel modeled on a Russian doll as architectural marvels. In China, however, these are among the nearly 90 entries for this year’s top 10 “ugliest” buildings. Other contenders for Chinese architecture website archcy.com’s 12th edition of its annual Ugliest Building Survey include an “upside-down” house, a “welcome to hell” glass bridge connecting two mountains, and a massive gate that mirrors the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The website, which has partnered with some of China’s top architecture critics and firms for the poll, said the competition was meant to “provoke thinking about the beauty of and ugliness of architecture and promote architects’ social responsibility.”
China’s reputation for extravagant architecture has concerned President Xi Jinping for a while now. In 2015, his government issued a directive calling for an end to “oversized, xenocentric, weird” structures in the country.
It was followed by the country’s State Council releasing a document calling for all new buildings to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” In 2014, President Xi Jinping openly criticized the construction of unusual buildings at a Beijing literary symposium, according to state media.
In June 2020, China’s housing ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission issued a circular against “copycat” buildings and skyscrapers taller than 500 meters (1,640 feet).
This year’s Archcy shortlist spans skyscrapers, museums, hotels and sports facilities, according to CNN.
The public poll, which has attracted more than 30,000 votes so far, is currently led by a five-arched gate at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, followed by a glass bridge in Sichuan province that is suspended between statues of giant men and women in traditional costume.
Voting for this year’s “ugliest” buildings will continue until December before the entries are evaluated based on nine criteria, including whether the building is deemed “inharmonious” with the surroundings, or if its design is thought to have been plagiarized. A final selection of 2021’s 10 “ugliest” buildings will be announced at the end of the year, with public polling accounting for 40% of the final decision, according to organizers.
The infamous winners of past polls include a cultural center shaped like a crab and a pedestrian bridge embellished with oversized “diamonds.”