Copy of Hadid's Wangjing SOHO Under Construction

John Hill | 01.14.2013
Wangjing SOHO. Rendering courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Meiquan 22nd Century. Rendering via Spiegel Online
In last week's eMagazine we noted that Zaha Hadid Architects has 11 landmark projects currently under construction. One of those projects, Wangjing SOHO in Beijing, has come to the fore after a competing developer was accused of copying the design in Chongqing in central China: "Meiquan 22nd Century," also under construction. While the copy consists of only two sail-shaped buildings instead of the three in Hadid's design, the plagiarism is undeniable. This episode is indicative of China's culture of copying models from the West, though the fact it is happening while the initial project is under construction gives it a unique spin.

Bianca Bosker, author of the forthcoming book Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, told World-Architects the copycat design is not surprising: "My time researching China's 'duplitecture' movement has taught me to never underestimate what China will copy, nor on what scale and at what speed." This speed is what Bosker finds most remarkable: "the Hadid replica is actually on track to be finished before the 'real' Hadid building opens its doors,  an incredible feat considering the enormity of the project. Regardless of whether you find the Hadid copy repulsive or remarkable, we have to be in awe of the incredible speed and agility of China's architectural plagiarists."

A planned lawsuit over the plagiarism could have a widespread impact, if ruled in favor of Hadid and Wangjing SOHO. As Bosker puts it, "Could European villages like Hallstatt (an Austrian town that was duplicated in Huizhou) sue Chinese developers who transplant the look and feel of their historic towns to China? We may be heading into a new age of architectural intellectual property protections and even trademarked tourist sites."