And Finally

Waste of space?

Fushun’s Ring of Life gets netizens talking

Waste of space?

Yes, but what’s it for...

The Man-on-a-Toilet Building, the Underpants Building and the Bar of Chocolate Tower – to name only a few. Experimental architects might not like it, but they seem powerless to prevent their more avant-garde constructions in China being given nicknames by the public.

Sometimes that’s because the projects in question are considered ugly or a waste of money. Other times the name just strikes people as obvious, because of a particular design or feature.

So a new structure in northern Liaoning province has got off relatively lightly by being compared to the huge space portal in the 1994 film Stargate.

The 150-metre high, 3,500-tonne steel ring (see photo) is situated in a new business park in the city of Fushun. It may even contain elevators to take people to its highest point, local media reported. Officially named The Ring of Life, it will also be illuminated by 12,000 purple, pink and blue LEDs.

“The Ring of Life signifies the connection between the round sky and the square land, and heaven and human society,” muses the Fushun government website. Fushun’s PR team also promises that tourists will get “the magnificent view of bright moonlight rising from the sea”. Sounds enchanting.

But while most people don’t seem to have too much of a problem with the aesthetics of the Ring – some even think it beautiful –  they are voicing anger over the price tag of Rmb100 million (around $16 million). That’s a lot for a structure that looks to have no practical purpose (plans to use it for bungee jumping look to have been abandoned).

“All these millions, how many kids will be able to go to school with that amount of money,” asked one contributor to the popular micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.

Others speculated wildly that the vast structure is designed to keep an eye on neighbouring North Korea or, more practically, that it was commissioned to drive up the price of steel, which has been falling recently. Liaoning province has China’s largest deposits of iron ore – a core material in steelmaking.

Newspapers and netizens also worry that the monument will prove to be another white elephant, i.e. a vanity project to satisfy the egos of local cadres (for more on this trend, see WiC60). As ever, there are fears that public funds may find their way into corrupt hands, too. “Do the officials who approved this dare to publicise their accounts?” asked one netizen.

Stung by the debate, Fushun’s local government officials have stopped commenting on the project. That leaves questions unanswered, including how the promised lifts will fit inside the circular structure.

If any of our readers have expertise in spherical elevator shafts, we advise them to contact the Fushun mayor immediately…

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