China puts the brakes on its supertall skyscraper boom

China boasts more of the world’s tallest skyscrapers than any other country, but this may not be the case in the future following a new policy by the Chinese government limiting construction on new tall buildings. The policy also officially bans the construction of copycat architecture.

The ban on copycat architecture is no surprise and follows a directive to that effect four years ago. The new statement, released by China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, says (in Chinese, via Google Translate) “Building plagiarism, imitation, and copycat behavior are strictly prohibited.”

The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world's second-tallest building
The 632-m (2,073 ft) Shanghai Tower is the world’s second-tallest building

Gensler Architects

The change to tall building construction is more significant. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development says that really tall skyscrapers – that is, those over 500 m (1,640 ft) in height, like the Shanghai Tower – will not “generally” be permitted. Towers over 250 m (820 ft) in height will be “strictly restricted” too, and those that are deemed absolutely necessary will be closely reviewed.

“Generally, new buildings over 500 meters are not allowed to be built,” says the statement (again via Google Translate). “If special constructions are needed in various places, special demonstrations and strict examinations on fire protection, earthquake resistance, and energy saving should be carried out.”

Up to now, the rate of construction of tall buildings in China has been astonishing. While the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is located in Dubai, China holds the second, fourth, joint seventh, ninth and tenth-tallest positions. Indeed, according to the official rankings of the CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat), 11 of the top 20 world’s tallest buildings are located in China. To put that into perspective, the US has just one, the One World Trade Center, and Europe also has one, the Lakhta Center.

KPF's Ping An Finance Centre, in Shenzhen, is the world's fourth-tallest skyscraper and measures a total height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft)
KPF’s Ping An Finance Centre, in Shenzhen, is the world’s fourth-tallest skyscraper and measures a total height of 599.1 m (1,965 ft)


The explanation for the decision is a little vague in translation, but the statement makes mention of a need to further strengthen the management of architectural features and to construct “economical, green, and beautiful” buildings that “embody the spirit of the city, represent the style of the times, and highlight Chinese characteristics.”

Time will tell whether or not the new policy will be strictly enforced, or if there will be special exceptions. Whatever happens, China has hosted many of the world’s most interesting skyscrapers over the years and to celebrate these we’ve picked a few of our favorites in the gallery.

Source: Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development [in Chinese]

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