Photographer Bai Xiaoci has spent the past two years taking pictures of some 40 municipal government buildings in China and posting them online, where they have received a warm response from many internet users. For him, the photos not only epitomize the progress of urban China but also reflect the aesthetic tastes of municipal officials. |
According to a story by Chinese-language magazine Time Weekly, municipal government buildings in coastal areas are often designed in European architectural styles, featuring marble and granite. A government building in Huizhou, in Guangdong province, for instance, mimics the glass pyramid of Paris' Louvre. Judicial buildings of units often borrow design elements from Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
One of the most famous of these buildings lies in Yingquan district in the city of Fuyang, Anhui province. Though Yingquan is the poorest district in the city, with local peasants' average monthly coming to about 2,000 yuan (US$315), the government spent 30 million yuan (US$4.7 million), one-third its of local budget, on a government building.
Some internet users saw Yingquan as squandering its wealth, but Bai did not agree. Bai said that the majority of government buildings are located in newly developed areas, surrounded by large swaths of empty land. The stately buildings can boost the value of nearby land plots, accelerating the development of these areas.
"Once government building moves into an area, the land price of that area will go up," Bai was quoted by Time Weekly as saying.
One architect with experience designing government buildings says the buildings' designs must meet two major elements: an aesthetic of power and compliance with the tastes of local officials. The first requirement emphasizes symmetry and symbolism suggestive of hierarchy. He admits that the design of government buildings seldom takes into account the needs of common people.
Most government buildings possess a large square at their front, which is often surrounded by public buildings such as museums or music halls. Some municipal governments bundle their office buildings with these other public facilities.
Municipal officials excuse the construction of expensive, stately government buildings by saying that the new structures will not be outdated even 50 or 100 years from today.
Yingquan district government building in Fuyang, Anhui province. It is dubbed as Fuyang White House with the cost of 30 million that accounts for one third of local government's annual financial revenue.