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Coffee table book Beautified China showcases China’s revolutionary modern architecture

The sky’s the limit for China’s new cityscapes.

A stunning coffee table book showcases China’s revolutionary modern architecture – otherworldly designs that look as though they’re from a sci-fi movie.

The book – Beautified China: The Architectural Revolution – with photography by Belgian Kris Provoost and published by Lannoo, is a compendium of gorgeous photographs of buildings that dominate skylines throughout the country.

‘China is a country that uses architecture to transform itself,’ writes Kris. ‘Travelling through China for the first time was eye-opening and gives you a good sense of the massive scale in terms of the cities. Everything is bigger and taller, by a lot. 

‘Beautified China is a selection of the most striking modern buildings that have been erected in the country over the past two decades. From arched skyscrapers, infinity loops, and stacked chopsticks to moving tubular curtains, this book offers a glimpse of China’s endless supply of breathtaking architecture.’ 

Scroll down to see some of China’s architectural wonders – by leading designers such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren, and Herzog & de Meuron – from unexpected angles and perspectives.

Hans Hollein & Christoph Monschein designed this Jenga-style office tower – the SBF Tower – in 2018. It stands in the Futian district of Shenzhen and is described in the book as a ‘neighbourhood in the sky’

Anchoring the skyline of Ningbo East Town, this landmark 50-storey tower, the Ningbo Bank of China headquarters, ‘gradually rotates along its vertical axis to capture the different vistas of its surroundings’

Britain’s Thomas Heatherwick Studio designed this amazing structure – Seed Cathedral – for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. The studio’s inspiration was Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank. The studio said: ‘This collection gave us the idea of making a structure with an extraordinary texture as a way of connecting the building with its content. The pavilion could be a cathedral to seeds.’ The finished cathedral was a 15m wide x 10m high box containing 60,000 ‘tingling hairs’, each one a 7.5m acrylic rod with 250,000 seeds cast into the tips. Each rod contained a hidden light, creating a magical effect at night. The concept was awarded the gold medal for Pavilion Design

The Harbin Opera House, in the northeast of the country on the banks of the Songhua River, was opened in 2015 and designed by Mad Architects. The main auditorium seats 1,600 people. ‘Set in a natural landscape,’ the book says, ‘this building seemingly rises out of the neighbouring wetlands. Two dynamically shaped theatres are physically merged by a three-dimensional walking path while also encapsulating an active urban plaza’

The striking Grand Theatre in Chongqing, a glass structure by the Yangtze river that contains two auditoriums. ‘Standing proudly on its pedestal,’ says the book, ‘overlooking the winding river and the bustling Chongqing city centre, this theatre is oddly shaped. Wrapped in green glass, this raw-looking building fits perfectly in gritty Chongqing’

This is the Wanda Movie Theme Park in Wuhan, by Stufish Entertainment Architects, which has a certain beehive aesthetic, though it’s actually based on the Wuhan Bells, a traditional symbol of the local Chu-Han culture

The Wangjing Soho complex in Beijing, by the late great Zaha Hadid, consists of three incredible skyscrapers. The book says: ‘When you want to establish a new business district, you need a centrepiece. Zaha Hadid delivered just that. Three pebbles arranged as an ensemble rise to a maximum height of 200m (656ft)’

The 70-metre-high (229ft) China Pavilion in Shanghai’s World Expo Park, designed by He Jingtang, is now one of the largest museums in the city. The striking red building is based on the traditional Chinese dougong, a style of wooden roof bracket that’s been in used for 2,000 years 

 Behold Galaxy Soho in Beijing, by Zaha Hadid Architects. The book says ‘out of this world, out of your imagination’. And adds: ‘Zaha Hadid’s first building in the capital immediately got everyone’s attention. Fluid and surreal, a style that wasn’t to be found in Beijing before its arrival’

The Linked Hybrid buildings in Beijing – designed by Steven Holl Architects – are 220,000-square-metre linked towers positioned adjacent to the site of the old city wall. The book describes it as ‘rigid, rational and efficient, with an extra touch’

The Binhai Science Museum, by Bernard Tschumi Architects, in the Binhai district of Tianjin is part of a new cultural district, the book explains. It describes it as ‘a simple box with a series of cones punching through’. These, it says ‘bring light into the depths of the building’ 

Towering over Suzhou’s new industrial park, in the Jiangsu region of China, this tower, known as The Gate to the East, is bound to be admired by Star Trek fans

Chongqing Guotai Arts Center has, says Kris, ‘unique form, eye-catching colour and interesting details, plus it stands out from every angle’ 

Beautified China – The Architectural Revolution with photography by Kris Provoost is available from Amazon from $39


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