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China copies itself

China copies itself

China is famous for its cheap copies of things: from pirated software and movies, to designer clothes and cigarettes, there are few well-known western brands that haven’t been pirated.

And buildings are no exception: there are copies of the US Capitol building, the Sydney Opera House, Austrian mountain hamlets, British country villages, and the Palace of Versailles.

But China’s continuing economic growth has thrown up a strange new twist to the country’s mania for copying: a building currently being constructed in Beijing is being copied by one in Chongqing, and the two are in a race to see which is completed first.

Famed British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid unveiled her designs for Beijing’s Wangjing Soho complex in 2011, which involves three pebble-like buildings and will house an office and retail complex.

The prestigious project is due to be completed next year.

Meanwhile, a remarkably similar project called Meiquan 22nd Century is being built in the southwestern city of Chongqing, which is widely believed to be a fairly precise copy of Hadid’s building.

“It is possible that the Chongqing pirates got hold of some digital files or renderings of the project,” Satoshi Ohashi, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects, told Der Spiegel online.

“[From these] you could work out a similar building if you are technically very capable, but this would only be a rough simulation of the architecture.”

Hadid – who recently designed the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics – has 11 projects on the go in China.

Fifteen thousand fans flocked to see her give a talk at the unveiling of the designs for the SoHo complex.

Zhang Xin, the property developer behind the Soho project has issued an open appeal for help in battling the massive counterfeiting, saying “Everyone says that China is a great copycat country, and that it can copy anything.”

Chongqing Meiquan, the developer behind Meiquan 22nd Century, has reportedly rejected accusations of copying and said on its blog: “Never meant to copy, only want to surpass.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at [email protected]

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