Hangzhou, a city in eastern China with apopulation of 9 million, is best known for its tourist-magnet WestLake area and historic buildings – even if local authorities haveallowed the latter to be convertedinto McDonald’s and Starbucks branches.
Despite the pace of recent developments –partly due to Hangzhou becoming a business hub for technology companies – thecity has largely left the machotower-building to its neighbour Shanghai, located 180km northeast, andChina’s other expanding megacities.
There is, however, another reason whyartist’s impressions of a major new Hangzhou development, set to beginconstruction next year, have caused a stir. The Zhejiang Gate Towers, designedby Australian-Germanfirm Lava, bear a striking resemblance to New York’s twintowers. Their shape is so similar to the old oneand two World Trade Center buildings that, on first glance, it’s hard to quellsuspicions that this yet another case ofChina’sobsession with copycat architecture. Hangzhou already has its ownversion of the Eiffel Tower, while in Tianjin, north-east China, a versionof Manhattan is being launched.
But talking to the Guardian from his Berlinoffice, Lava’s co-founder Tobias Wallisser laughs off the twin towerscomparison. “Well, I did live in New York when I studied there, and of coursethe World Trade Center was an iconic structure,” he says, adding that a WorldTrade Center copy was never part of Lava’s Hangzhou design brief orspecifically mentioned as a marker point.
“Put any two buildings together and theywill probably resemble the World Trade Center,” Wallisser adds. “But there area few famous twin structures we have compared our new one to recently, such asPetronas Towers [in Kuala Lumpur]. The client wanted to have a simple,commercially viable building with a simple silhouette.”
Zhejiang Gate Towers will stand at 280 metres, making them the tallest buildings in Hangzhou, and as is the modern trend, will feature a mixture of retail, residential and office space. According to Wallisser, the original design had been more complicated than a basic twin tower structure, but was simplified to lower costs.
Rather than New York’s famous twin towers, one of the main design ideas for the new Hangzhou structure was to have it reflect the Chinese character for the word “gate”: 门