Architectural Marvels: 7 Must-See Places When You Visit China
China is an architect's playground. Here are some of the most amazing, awe-inspiring edifices built in and around the Middle Kingdom
In 2021, the Chinese government released a new mandate that would limit the number of "weird" buildings to be built in the country. According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), super high-rise buildings over 500 metres would be limited as well. While this news may sound discouraging to some, it's worthy to note that China has more than a mere handful of fantastic, majestic architecture to gaze upon. Below are some of the best examples of architectural play found within the country.
The Great Wall of China
We start the list off with one of the 7 Wonders of the World: the Great Wall of China. Though it's not a modern marvel per se, its construction and architecture are just as magnificent. It was built about two millennia ago and spans the length of northern China throughout southern Mongolia. It was built as a way to protect certain states from the threat of barbarian invasions.
Dutch architectural firm, Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), designed the China Central Television (CCTV) Headquarters in Beijing. It took almost ten years to complete: from 2002 to 2012. It now stands proudly in the heart of Beijing and houses multiple TV studios, offices, and broadcasting and production facilities.
Designed by Gensler, the Shanghai Tower is China's tallest building and stands at 632 metres with 127 stories. It is among the city's most prominent edifices and is best known for its transparent, spiral form. Inside are office spaces, conference centres, a luxury hotel, and other cultural amenities. It has also won numerous awards since it first opened to the public in 2015.
Beijing National Stadium
Known colloquially as the Bird's Nest Stadium, the Beijing National Stadium first found glory in 2008 as the host of the Olympic Games. The minds behind this famous building are Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Its mesmerising steel frame is instantly recognisable, measuring 320 metres by 297 metres. It houses a 91,000 seat-arena and is adjacent to other Olympic buildings such as the Water Cube (for water sports) and Digital Beijing (which served as the information control room for the Games).
Located in an autonomous region of China, in Tibet, the Potola Palace is a hallmark of Tibetan Buddhism. The palace itself has held a central role in the governance and culture of the land. It is also known as the winter palace of the Dalai Lama and is built at the heart of Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700 metres.
Marvel at some of the best-preserved examples of traditional Chinese architecture at Summer Palace. Located in Beijing, the Summer Palace was first built in 1750 before being destroyed by war in 1860. However, it has since been restored and is now considered one of the best imperial gardens left in the city. Due to its natural landscape, visitors can enjoy relaxing panoramas of pavilions, halls, palaces, and temples alongside the natural beauty of hills and open waters.
Harbin Opera House
MAD Architects, located in Beijing, was behind the futuristic design of the Harbin Opera House. It is located next to the wetlands of the Songhua River and houses a grand theatre and another more intimate performance space. Its undulating design mimics the curves of the marsh landscape and these soft edges are also seen in the interiors of the building itself.