Inspired

We were invited to submit designs for an entrance gateway to a new public park, the size of London’s Hyde Park, at the heart of the new Pudong business district in Shanghai, China.

Having no written brief, job architect Nic Sampson and I cast around for appropriate imagery. We wanted something that was evocative of the new capitalist China, yet was distinctly Chinese. Modern chinoiserie, I suppose.

Chinese dragons and traditional Chinese New Year celebrations came to mind, and we conceived an undulating, rippling roof along the length of a thin linear building. The green copper roof, reminiscent of glazed tiles, would be supported by a hi-tech mast and suspension cables, with the gateline and ancillary accommodation below.

We sent off the sketches and heard nothing for months. I was then invited to Shanghai to discuss the proposals. Luckily, I took along our structural engineer. We were told that, instead of copper and ply, the structure would be rolled steel, fabricated at the local shipyard and painted on site. We sketched and Tongji University did the working drawings. In a week, they were done and I said I’d return when the building was complete. ‘No thank you’ was the polite response.

So, we have photographs, but I’ve never seen the building. The central mast looks a bit dumpy, but otherwise it seems to have been faithfully executed. Our inspiration remains intact.

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