Zaha Hadid building pirated in China


Wangjing Soho by Zaha Hadid

News: a building designed by Zaha Hadid for Beijing has been copied by a developer in Chongqing, with the two projects racing to be completed first.

Designs for Hadid's Wangjing Soho complex (top image), consisting of three pebble-shaped volumes up to 200 metres high, were unveiled in August 2011. The project is under construction and due to be completed in 2014.

Meiquan 22nd Century in Chongqing

Meanwhile, in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, a project called Meiquan 22nd Century (above) is being built that observers say is a pirated copy of Hadid's design.

German news site Spiegel Online quoted Zhang Xin, head of Chinese developer Soho China and the client of Hadid's Beijing building, as saying: "Even as we build one of Zaha's projects, it is being replicated in Chongqing."

According to Spiegel Online, Xin made the comments at the opening of Hadid's Galaxy Soho complex, another project for Soho China which opened in Beijing in October last year. Xin added that the Chongqing project is being built faster than Hadid's original design.

Satoshi Ohashi, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects, told the German website:  "It is possible that the Chongqing pirates got hold of some digital files or renderings of the project."

Ohashi added: "I am sure that some architect is already working on another version of the Guangzhou Opera House." The opera house, designed by Hadid, opened in Guangzhou in February 2011.

In a report on the legal aspects of the case, China Intellectual Property wrote: "Up to now, there is no special law in China which has specific provisions on IP rights related to architecture."

The site added that Chongqing Meiquan, the developer behind Meiquan 22nd Century, had refuted accusations of copying and posted on its blog: “Never meant to copy, only want to surpass.”

  • yo mamma

    Don’t worry Zaha, they may build it in one week but it will just fall over again knowing the Chinese when it comes to building safety regulations. Innovate don’t imitate.

    • Alex

      ABSOLUTELY imitate!

      Imitation is a great way to expose the flaws, weaknesses and lack of integrity these “iconic” city branding projects have – take away their iconic status and then examine what you’re left with.

      • miles

        You said it yourself, a total lack of integrity. So what does that say about the party who imitates the design? If we had it your way, weak buildings with no integrity would be continually replicated to expose the underlying problems of the projects. We’d be surrounded by junk like this developer.

        If you put these two buildings side by side and look close at the pictures and it’s like comparing a Rolex to the fake. Good but not quite good enough. That’s because the developer and designer haven’t quite the skills necessary to resolve the project the same as Zaha Hadid’s workshop.

        So the question remains why you’d condone this type of imitation. It’s frankly as bad as a developer trying to sell McMansions as architecture. Poor for every one, except for the developer. If your going to copy something, copy it well! Otherwise you’re reproducing junk buildings.

  • vincent

    Oh well, if it´s done in China we call it pirating. In the Netherlands in Groningen we have the Kempkensberg project which could also be called a clone of all these buildings. But that one is designed by the well reputed UNStudio, so no-one has ever mentioned the possibility of theft from Zaha Hadid. Oh no, then it’s “inspired” and then designers should feel honored for being trendsetters, or even initiators of a style.

    Just google “Kempkensberg” for a second, there’s seriously no difference.

    The day architectural design can be deemed intellectual property that can be legally protected, that’s the day I’ll buy a ton of dynamite and blow up the first ‘original’ building a come across.

    PS I consider the case of van Egeraats Capital City Towers in Moscow something very different. There, his winning design from a competition was stolen before it was built, to be build by another firm on the same site!

    • Dee

      I did Google it. It’s different, mate. ;-)

      • GALESSA

        I did it too and I think it is not THAT different.

    • ugrw

      At some point we have to say that architecture is the definition of horizontal bands. That perhaps they are both terrible designs because of how simplistically they define space. They are “pancake” buildings, one horizontal surface on top of the next. This is what they display to the public in the design of the facades. I agree that they are both curvilinear buildings from reputed design houses, though perhaps they should no longer be held so high. They lack an architectural “project” beyond fluidity. Somehow we must ask the market how they are purchasing the image of fluidity, rather than the human use equated with fluidity.

      • Paul

        I absolutely agree. How many blobs does the world really need?

        All these buildings are, like you say, “pancake” structures with little thought as to how you may experience them from the street or from your desk. Not surprising that all we ever see are these objects projected into a landscape from a view never to be seen by anyone in reality.

      • miles

        What’s the difference between these buildings and a building by Mies van der Rohe? The simple answer is technique and resolution. There are no comparisons between these buildings, but they all resemble bands of horizontal stripes.

        All great architects forge new forms and ideas out of their architecture. It’s up to the rest of the world to catch up. Imitation can’t be wrong in light of our professionalism. It’s the quality and use of the replications that should decide how successful the project is. Then we should ultimately decide whether or not we accept or reject it as a professionalism in order to deter inappropriate architecture in the future.

        This replication by the Chinese developer essentially wastes a perfectly good opportunity to create a piece of architecture.

    • H-J

      So Hadid is copying UNStudio since Kempkensberg is already built, ha ha ha.

  • Massimo

    The first one was definitely enough…

  • When buildings are designed as objects than are settled into place like coming from a fallen down helicopter from nowhere like trophies of interplanetary contexts then no wonder they can be easily replicated! Projects seems to be bought as consumer commodities, what is the surprise? Replication as with any consumer object, just as they probably were conceived?

    • Matt

      Exactly how I feel.

      Want to make your building impossible to copy? Make it unique to the time and site. Problem solved.

    • miles

      Buildings are consumer commodities by their nature. Built and paid for by the users themselves. It’s not the replication of the detachment from the site that’s important here but the quality and context of the reproduction, which in this case appears poor compared the original.

  • Evert

    “Only want to surpass”. Sadly he didn’t. Shame on you!

    • miles


  • INawe

    “Never meant to copy, only want to surpass.” Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  • Insane. What about respect?

  • Bart

    Zaha Hadid has also pirated herself from the design of Norman Foster’s London City Hall. Please just compare both buildings: London City Hall and Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho complex.

  • John

    I’m not a big Hadid fan, but the taller tower in the Meiquan image looks like a condom. Quality design will always win over mindless mimicking.

  • Biggy

    You’re nobody till somebody copies you!

  • Derek

    This is rather ironic considering how she gushed about the ease of working in China in a recent issue of Fast Company.

  • Nick

    Really interesting. Of the scores of people trying to imitate MVRDV, let’s see how many try Zaha Hadid.

  • IP is already a huge part of the industry. Ownership of full BIM models will be a huge sticking point. BIM should make this type of copying even easier, BUT no two projects are the same. Site constraints, dynamics, geology etc.

  • Charlie

    Although the masterplan is a blatant copy, the form is hardly unique. There are only so many shapes to make! I guess that’s why the usual Hadid projects have the signature “overproofed” appearance.

  • ugrw

    In order for something to be considered a copy, it must first posses attributes that are not able to be copied. For me this is the same argument that Apple ran into against Samsung. Realistically, designers that engage in simplicity are doomed to be copied, for two reasons: one, the designs are simple to replicate. Two, the market is in control of what is possible economically.

    I ask this question: is it the fault of Zaha Hadid for creating something generic and forcing people to like it? Creating a copy? Or is it the uneducated followers of her that should know better?

    • Concerned Citizen

      "In order for something to be considered a copy, it must first posses attributes that are not able to be copied." That makes absolutely no sense.

      • City

        It is talking about the process of making an object, of constructing an image. Too often we consider something looking similar to being similar. They could be completely different “things” made completely differently, yet look exactly the same. This website is concerned, as has been stated before, with image exclusively. For something to be looked at as a copy, it must posses a difference to the original – what is that difference and how does this difference produce a different understanding?

        Nothing is a copy: look at stephen Sagmeister’s advice for budding graphic designers. One thing he says is that it is okay to copy something, or try to: you will never reach that exact level.

  • Part Duax

    Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt here. The Chinese are laughing at what is considered western superiority of design. They are questioning how great Zaha Hadid really is. We are being shown that since she was unable to stop this from happening, she doesn’t possess the power of a great designer.

  • Brian

    What a shame that people care about a building being copied. It happens all the time. Is Hadid even concerned? Did she force the instigation forward? Or is this a media-driven thing? I doubt that Hadid is pushing this, but if so, I have lost a lot of respect for her.

    Though, if you ever had a chance to see the fake Apple stores that China created, you would know that the construction and replication is horrible. And if Hadid is using Chinese workers and engineers to build her own work in Beijing, it will be just as horrendous.

  • Jeff Rabin

    Of course a building can be copied. That’s why the United States has the “1990 Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act.” There’s a famous case in Los Angeles where a high end residential building was copied in detail.….

  • aleks

    Zaha pirates Russian constructivism!

  • sharky

    In China it is called “pirated”. In UK or US it is called “inspired by a famous architect”. Get a life people.

    • Mike

      Post Modern Pastiche…
      Reflexive Interpretation…

      "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different."
      T. S. Elliot

  • Anna

    Great, now there will be two more ugly inefficient blobs we need to live with.

  • Concerned Citizen

    It’s China: everything is pirated there. Why is anyone surprised? Not only are the Chinese incapable of original design, they also lack scruples.

    • Greg

      Totally agree! They (Chinese) wish not to pay for design and never hesitate to copy something to even the closest details. This comes to absolutely no surprise to me at all. And do consider that maybe a Chinese client even asked for their new project to look just like the first.

  • sdfasdfa

    F*** all this copied nonsense. Zaha may have created the typological dildo-like form only… Heck I think her design is actually a copy of that dildo-like office tower in London. And doesn’t Zaha live and work in London? I think she was trying to sell the Chinese some cheap knockoffs you know. Don’t you all think most buildings in Manhattan are knockoffs too? They are all rectilinear and look the same you know?

  • Jack

    there should be international controls on a few things here:
    1. Laws on buildings by Zaha Hadid ie. no Zaha Hadid buildings
    2. Laws on copying designs
    3. Laws on starchitects copying their own designs, for example Frank Gehry with his Guggenheims all of the place

  • Brightside

    At least they didn’t copy Broadway Malyan.

  • max

    SURPRISE! For decades China is known for copying everything! Art, design, fashion, entire cities! Stealing ideas and projects! Some more rules maybe will be great.


  • Anton Huggler

    Zaha Hadid may cry, but she sure is not alone. I believe Mies’ Seagram building was copied many times. Siemens (Germany) sold the Chinese high speed trains. They (the Chinese) lost no time copying them, building AND selling now their “own”. They do it with Swiss Rolex watches and got to the level where it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.

    Remember the USSR’s Tupolev supersonic jetliner. A Concorde-copy? At least very similar. As there were several fighter jets. Even the automobile designers copy each other all the time. Audi’s curved windows on its roadster were even copied by sailboat manufacturers. It is happening all the time, not just since the Japanese began making “Leica” cameras. By the way, I much prefer Mies over Zaha…

  • Bob Dinwiddy

    “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Pop art thrives on controversy and architecture is no exception to the rule. Has the Dame got an empty order portfolio? I think not! Headlines are win-win’s for both parties. I say: Judge the building when it’s FINISHED.

  • LaureR

    I am not a big fan of the Zaha Hadid project either, but the Meiquan 22nd Century project looks particularly gross.

    “Never meant to copy, only want to surpass” – this answer sounds to me so hypocritical, arrogant and vulgar at the same time. Those Chinese entrepreneurs don’t seem aware that pathological over self-confidence is often one’s own worst enemy.

  • Fizz

    This is complete nonsense. How can you “patent” a form? Did Picasso throw a hissy fit when Braque turned out similar Cubist images? Did Moore stamp his foot in a sulk when Hepworth also put holes in her sculptures?

    “… possible that the Chongqing pirates got hold of some digital files or renderings.” Oh of course, industrial espionage is rampant in the architectural world. In today’s ever homogenised design conceptuality (see: car industry) it’s inevitable that look-alike products will pop up all over the place and buildings are no exception.

    Anyway, Hadid – if she’s smart – could turn a trick here by her next project being of such a contrast that she demonstrates how she can actually keep one step ahead, move on and develop new ideas. Um… no, sorry she can’t and seemingly couldn’t if she tried.

  • dUMB

    Function Follows Form – the issue I have with some of the architectural designs being produced is that they broadly fall into a style of architecture that could be crudely labelled as “Shapism” and lend themselves to copying as the shape is everything.

    Therefore, visually seductive, complex CAD-generated forms make a strong impact whether they possess any contextual relevance or could be placed in any city almost anywhere (correspondingly the accompanying rationale for some of them is often simply laughable.

    Depending on one’s viewpoint, you could regard them as visionary (21st century CAD-empowered visions) or simply banal, a sort of modern day architectural imperialism.

  • burnside

    It would be impossible to attribute the Chongqing complex to Zaha Hadid. The similarities are either superficial or nonexitent.

  • Frederik

    Well, they’re both ugly in my opinion. But imitation is sh*t in any opinion.

  • Nelson

    I am curious as to what is exactly the issue with copying architecture some of you seem to be concerned about.

    Not only is it common practice, as has been made out already (or human nature, since repeating something that adds to the quality of life is basic human behavior), in my opinion the advantages also outweigh the disadvantages in virtually all situations, especially in architecture.

    I’d like to discuss this but actually I am not sure what there really is to discuss. Is there anyone here who thinks that copying is inherently harmful and why is it then?

  • Will

    However China is a country still in the stages of development (arguably the later stages) and a way to develop your country’s technology against countries already developed is to begin by copying, until you are level-pegging, then innovation and imagination can kick in.

  • pirate-china

    A good copy is better than a bad original.

  • Stella Faria

    The problem in this case is that the project was “stolen” and not simply copied. If the building was already ready, it would be understandable to be copied or serve as inspiration for a similar project. But what happened, in fact, was the theft of the project, so that the “copy”, being simpler and smaller, will be completed before the original.

    It’s a typical nonsense from China! They are pirates at heart. I am not surprised.

  • Imitation is the greatest form of flattery but isn’t this taking it too far?

  • ivan ventura

    They are both sh*tty projects anyway. Architecture is not the same! Now it is all about spending money on formal projects like those two.

  • Bob

    Most architects must lack finesse because Zaha’s building looks totally different from Kempkensberg and the London City Hall, and the Chinese version of her building looks like a bad Rhino model – not sophisticated at all. Zaha’s design has much nicer curves and appears completely different to London City Hall (also nice curves, but completely different design vision and execution).

    Comparing Zaha forms to dildos is as unoriginal as calling all skyscrapers phallic symbols and every tunnel yonic.

  • MGB

    As a western architect resident in China, what I find interesting in this quarrel has nothing to do with copyright or ethics itself, but more with the way China is seen beyond its borders.

    Generally speaking, commentators of this post can be divided into:

    a) people who think that China is all about crap quality/evil ideology/lack of creativity

    b) people that use this example to discuss if blob architecture/generative design is good or bad

    c) supporters of Made in China whatsoever, whose English vocabulary traits the “online commentator” skills (AKA 50-Cent Party or trolls).

    Most western architects, here in China, are somehow not too impressed or disturbed any more by these kind of issues.

    If you spent some time living here, for sure you would have to deal yourself with those kind of rip-offs. First you get surprised, even disgusted, and sometimes you might even end up with a laugh, like when I saw a 10-floor scaled replica of Foster’s Swiss Re HQ in the middle of a 4th tier city in Jiangsu province.

    Open the catalogue of any Chinese architectural rendering company and you’ll see tons of copies of western design. Not just Zaha and Foster, but even from Palladio to Sauerbruch Hutton and anything in between.

    Door-to-door booksellers propose DVD collections with CAD detailed drawings of the CCTV tower or scanned copies of El Croquis. Project booklets of international companies spread around USB key to companies libraries. Any pirated design software is available at the local video store for as little as 5 USD.

    In this context China is facing radical changes and transformation, with most of those directed “from above”. China HAS TO grow, and just a slow down of its GDP growth worries the government and the global balance. On a wide, general perspective (not considering that China also produces genuine quality in architecture research) any discussion over good/bad design makes little sense. When the western world is still debating over this Soho copy, ten more distorted versions of it, according to each site’s specification, will be already in progress.

    It’s 2013 and we are still debating over this issue in the same way we did ten years ago. The pace of emerging countries goes faster than those comments and it is very resilient to them.

  • Nelson


    But where lies the point where we decide something is copied or stolen? Should that choice be based on when it is constructed or when it is published?

    Most professionals and possible clients who know of this project will probably never see it in real life and the designs, renderings and photos are most often the main means to communicate a design of a project. Especially now in the internet age.

    So in a sense the issue of whether a design has been constructed has lost much of its relevance in cases like this. Although, one could argue it has never been that important – think, for instance, about Saarinen’s Chicago Tribune tower design and the influence it had.

  • MaEK

    The point here is that one would even want to copy it like this. Yes, it is an old story in which architects build on the work that came before. But here, the developer gets a product that he can use in an entirely different context etc. Hadid has codified her signature to such a degree that it is merely consumer product. Real architecture opposes this. What this is, is the end of the image architect. Thank God! Hadid’s work has already long been boring factory-like production.

  • The best form of flattery is imitation. If only modern architects didn't have such huge egos the world would be a better looking place. Some of the most beautiful cities in the world are beautiful because one architect came up with a good design and everyone else copied it. How would Amsterdam look if each building had strived to be unique instead of the cohesion that exists?

  • The main question is not whether to copy existing buildings. This has been a fact which is part of our professional life.

    You are invited to visit my blog Someone Has Built It Before, there you can see hundreds of examples that reinforce this claim.

    Our challenge today, as I would put it, is how to get inspired consciously from existing buildings.

  • Kenneth Smythe

    Why copy an original idea without merit. IMO much of Zaha's original designs are without merit. I shun her work like the plague.

  • Blue Cheese

    Um, they’re both fugly.

  • zmaestro

    By continuing to behave as such, China will always be looked on as a grand theft nation. Copying European towns, iPhone stores, softwares, other people’s hard earned intellectual designs is hardly an expression of flattery, but outright ignorance of the basic law of not to steal. Chinese fake success building on stealing and xeroxing others assets with the ambition to wipe out all competitions, this is one thumb down for humanity.