Zaha Hadid's Wangjing SOHO in Beijing, under construction; Photo via Daily Mail
"Never meant to copy, only want to surpass." That's the official stance Chongqing Meiquan has adopted towards overcoming the controversy that has mired the developer's Meiquan 22nd Century project. (Yes, this is the architecture of the next century.) The building's design is considered by many to be a direct copy of Zaha Hadid Architect's Wangjin SOHO complex in Beijing. Until now, we've only had renderings to compare, but newly surfaced construction photos reveal how closely the counterfeit clone resembles ZHA's original.
Meiquan 22nd Century in Chongqing, under construction; Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Judging from these photos, the designs are very much alike, with the anthills of the Wangjing SOHO faithfully, if somewhat more crudely duplicated at the Meiquan 22nd Century. Chongqing Meichuan's claims that their design were derived from the cobblestones that collect on the bank of the Yangtze River, which runs around Chongqing. (Funnily enough, the metaphor is the same one used by ZHA for the firm's Guangzhou Opera House, situated near the Pearl River.)
A comparison of the project models, however, reveals more acute differences. ZHA's design consists of immaculately modeled forms animated with a dynamism that is thoroughly lacking from its would-be copy. The Meiquan towers appear stunted, and their detailing---thick floor plates, chunky bands of glass, awkward dome covers---less streamlined. The third tower, which would have completes the original complex, is sorely missed in the copy, and its absence can be felt in the project's compromised master plan.
Project models, Wangjing SOHO (left) and Meiquan 22nd Century (right); Photo: AFP via
Meanwhile, Zaha and Pan Shiyi, the head of SOHO, say that they will pursue legal measures against Chonqing Meichuan for the infringement. If convicted, the latter could be forced to provide compensation for the design, but, given hazy copyright laws and their application to architecture, it's unlikely that the developers will be barred from completing and even operating the building.