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Worries of "the first"
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2005-06-08 08:52

By Zhi Gang

Recently, news about the construction of a new TV tower in Guangzhou, which has long been the center of the public's attention, has come that the new TV tower, with a total investment of 2.215 billion yuan and a design height of about 610 meters, will become the highest tower in the world after its construction. The design will transcend the current tradition form of towers in the world; the new Tower has a unique slender waist in the world.

The Nanjing No.3 Yangtze River Bridge will be open to traffic this October, thus becoming the first steel tower cable stayed bridge in China and the first arc steel tower cable stayed bridge in the world.

"The highest" and "unique" are modifiers that make people excited. It shows that some areas of China have indeed developed economies. It turns to be more worrisome after a spell of excitement. Do we really need such urban architectures that "top" in the world? Can we now bear the weight of these "firsts"?

In recent years, some cities in China follow the fashion of "striving to be the first". To be "high", "big", "advanced" and "queer" seems to become in a sense the mainstream of the architectures. The "highest mansion" in the world, Shanghai World Financial Center, which is under much attention of the Chinese strives to be the highest mansion in the world repeatedly. The "bird's nest" form of famous National Stadium Project is reputed to be the queerest in the world. Those who fail to be the first in the world try to become "the first in province", "the first in the region", "the first in the city", and even try to "imitate the first". A certain city in North China in a bid to be unique even built up an architecture in the shape of "gold ingot", which was dubbed the "most vulgar" architecture in China. A small town in Chongqing even built a new government office building, which is strikingly similar to Tiananmen Tower.

The trend to strive to be "the first" will not bring about cities with idiosyncratic urban planning, but more and more "fake New York" and "fake Kuala Lumpur". On the one hand, there are more and more machine-made cities, which have lost their idiosyncrasies and culture and full of reach-me-down architectures or "fake antiques" and imitated foreign-style buildings. On the other hand, there "stand" in the constructions cites in full swing some buildings in grotesque shapes, which are so called "the firsts" representing world trends.

Modernization should be a "reasonable" process, which has rich connotations. A modern city is defined not by whether it has "the first" architectures but by whether it is livable in terms of such essences as culture, environment and balanced social and economic development.

As a matter of fact, even the most popular western cities are integration of the traditional and the modern, the practicability and the beauty, which attach equal importance to modernization development of cities and to safeguarding cities historic lineage and harmony as a whole. They seldom strive to be "the first" on purpose. The cities in the future should be the ones rich in culture. Simple endeavors to be "the firsts" and duplication of forms can merely impinge upon our eyes, and nothing else.

What is the most crucial is that these "firsts" bring about unbearable weight on cities after the spell of glory. Earlier, there was an example that the Giant Group had gone bankrupt due to the Giant Mansion. At sight, there is also an example; the National Stadium has been suspended for economic and security problems. Recently, there were sources that the "huge egg" of China National Theater built up with 3 billion yuan is now in the embarrassed situation that no one continues to pay the follow-up bills for the project.

These "firsts" should be built if really necessary, but it is hoped that those who will build them should think about their own wealth and whether they are naturally feasible. Never suffer to keep up their "faces". We should not strive to be "the firsts" at the costs of our idiosyncrasies, development conditions, practical abilities and the overall costs and effects. Laws in history have told us that social progress does not lie in how many "the first" architectures there are, but in to what degree people's material and cultural demands can be satisfied. This is also applicable to urban planning. 
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