More luck than judgement?

Monday 13 Feb 2012

'Lucky' coin-inspired structure on Pearl River, Guangzhou, meets mixed reviews online

Construction is pushing on with rapid pace at a significant waterside scheme on the Pearl River, Guangzhou, designed by Italian architect Joseph di Pasquale for the Guangdong Plastics Exchange. The 33-storey commercial facility has been inspired by the jade Bi Disks synonymous with rank and moral excellence throughout Chinese history and chief engineer on the project, Wang Zhanshan, has detailed: “It’s a real fusion of Western and Chinese design. The distinctive feature of the building is that it is shaped like an old Chinese jade or a waterwheel and also has good feng shui for attracting fortune. A golden coin, jade or waterwheel alongside the river means luck to Cantonese: Water brings money.”

The use of jade Bi Disks dates back to the Neolithic period, with the circular items becoming gradually more ornate as time progressed. Images of deities or intricately patterned engravings grace the majority of Bi Disks which were given as gifts to the elite and often buried with them. The symbolism ingrained in this tradition has been carried through to modern times, with the reverse of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Medals reminiscent of a Bi Disk. Once completed, the building will be used as a warehouse, public information space and research centre.

Joseph di Pasquale’s practice, AM Progetti, may have taken inspiration from a deep-rooted Chinese tradition, but as their final concept grows closer to realisation, so the cloud of critique that surrounds it has blackened. Shenzhen Daily ran a piece last week entitled ‘Thumbs down for “lucky” office in GZ’ which criticised the 1bn Yuan scheme, quoting a disappointed internet reviewer who drew parallels between the GDPE Landmark Building and ‘the ugly Fangyuan Building in Shenyang’. The Telegraph also questioned the design, suggesting that locals resent the effect that the structure could have on their skyline, again drawing links to the Fangyuan Building.

When completed - allegedly by the end of 2012 - the cylindrical building will reach 138m in height with a 47m-diameter hole in the centre. The brief provided to AM Progetti demanded a ‘landmark’ building that would stay in the hearts and minds of visitors to the Pearl River whilst creating a strong link between the building and town through the integration of local traditions. As a result of detailed research and consideration, the architects decided to incorporate ‘the traditions of the Nanyue King we visited in the Museum of Nanyue King Tomb Treasures in Guangzhou’. They continue: “We consider the shape of the double jade disk as the strongest shape inspiration and the perfect starting point for the GDPE Landmark Building design.” The School of Architecture of South China University of Technology also collaborated on the design.

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