Guangzhou Circle: Modern Chinese Architecture

China, why is your architecture as addicting as your food…is there an MSG in the concrete or something?  Yes, that’s sarcasm, but I really do wax nostalgic for taking long walks around Chinese cities, appreciating their overzealous approach towards geodesic domes, bumper car  facilities, and some of the most bizarre ideas ever constructed.

Today’s specimen: the 138-meter (just under 453 feet) Guangzhou Circle (广州园大厦), located in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.  Completed in December 2013 by Milan, Italy-based architect Joseph di Pasquale, the Guangzhou Circle pays homage to Chinese history both in design and in its main occupants.

As is common with major projects in Chinese cities, the Guangzhou Circle is near nothing.  An expectation is that businesses will follow, partially to bandwagon off of the cachet of a new landmark– it’s commonly done with building a high-speed railway station, and then a new neighborhood around it, but this structure doesn’t even have a metro station nearby…yet.  Yes, it overlooks the Pearl River (more on this later), and is quite close to the Dongsha Bridge, but to get there by public transit involved a not-so frequent bus.  In any event, I dig it.

But, what was it modeled after?

Was its inspiration this delicious, gluten-filled sesame-pocked nang, brought to us by Uyghur chefs?

Nice try.

In fact, it was the ancient bi – 璧 – or disc that lent its look.  Though their origins are something of a mystery, thousands of years ago bi were discovered buried with people of presumably higher social status.  One theory suggests that the bi represented the sky, and accompanied these people in their afterlife; another conjectured that bi were talismans to ward off evil spirits.

Then there’s that ever-present number eight.  What, you say?  It looks like a zero to me.  Haha…this is where feng shui comes into the mix.  When the Guangzhou Circle is reflected on the Pearl River, the pair “forms” the number eight, or double bi.  The number eight is China’s lucky number; try buying a license plate or phone number with mostly 8s, and you will be in shock.

When I first lived in Shenzhen, China, I noticed three awfully tacky golden skyscrapers along Shennan Boulevard, the city’s main east-west drag.  How ugly they are…but it’s simple.  Gold in your facade means I’m here to make money!  As such, with Guangzhou Circle’s two main tenants being Hongda Xingye, a giant international chemical company, and the Guangdong Plastics Exchange, perhaps the newest phone camera filter will be “Tackify Your Home.”


Have you been to Guangzhou?  Any desire to see the Guangzhou Circle?

The Neptunus Group Building, Shenzhen (China)

Recently, I came across an article from two months ago that mentioned how Chinese Leader Jinping Xi issued a decree limiting the construction of buildings >250 meters (~821 feet) tall, disallowing buildings > 500 meters (~1641 feet), and prohibiting copycat behavior – in architecture.

That article made me reflect on the architectural scene in China, and how I relish exploring its urban fabric in the hunt for the most bizarre structures exemplifying a combination of the modern vicissitudes of Chinese capitalism and tradition.  Whereas there are some real winners out in the mainland, I believe this one, located in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, also deserves a spot in the pantheon.

Neptunus Group Building (海王集团大厦, 中国深圳), Shenzhen, China, #1

Founded in Shenzhen in 1989, the Neptunus Group is a dominant player in the Chinese health and pharmaceutical industries; if you have visited China, you may have seen their Nepstar drugstore, the largest pharmacy chain in the country.  They have other skyscrapers throughout the city, but only this one merited a report.

You also might be wondering, what’s with the names?  The Chinese characters 海王 can be translated as Neptune, the Roman “god of fresh water,” and analogous to the Greek Poseidon.  Wouldn’t the name work better for a shipping company?  Also,  isn’t China officially atheist?  Hmmm.

Neptunus Group Building (海王集团大厦, 中国深圳), Shenzhen, China (2)
Neptunus Group Building (海王集团大厦, 中国深圳), Shenzhen, China (1)

If you, too would like to see Neptune riding through the façade of a Chinese skyscraper, it’s located in the Nanshan district of western Shenzhen.

Chinese Address: 深圳市南山区南海大道2225号海王大厦A座5层