In December of last year, the Broad Sustainable Building company accomplished the latest viral feat of Chinese engineering by taking only 15 days to build a pre-fabricated 30-story building in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.
According to Jonathan Kaiman of the LA Times, prefabricated buildings are mostly created in a factory, with the foundation laid ahead of time. The Times’ World Now blog reports:
The company, Broad Sustainable Building, boasts that its technology is “the most profound innovation in human history.” But other architects question the safety and oversight for a building constructed so fast.
Broad Sustainable is looking beyond China: The company is hoping to partner in the United States and says it is also working out deals with firms in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and India, Kaiman reports.
development porn clip demonstration of Chinese industry is, if you’ll excuse us, a succinct enough example of China In A Nutshell. Yes it’s impressive how quickly the prefabricated building (or gleaming new society controlled by a single party) was built, but what if the structure falls apart precisely because measured and steady steps weren’t taken to ensure its long-term durability?
A single party that doesn’t have a contrarian party to incessantly question their policy means things get done lickety-split, but no culture of checks and balances can mean mass corruption, which in the case of a building means shoddy materials and an overall sense of not-up-to-snuffness.
Walter Russell Meade of the American Interest uses just such a metaphor to describe contemporary China when he declares, “If the Chinese system fails, it will be because the towering skyscraper of modern China is build [sic] on porous foundations.”
If you think Meade’s imagery leaves something to be desired, know that you’re in good company.
@chinahearsay “the towering skyscraper of modern China” etc is the most painfully bad metaphor I’ve read in years. Award winningly terrible.
— Adam Minter (@AdamMinter) February 27, 2012
Democracy takes time, goes the usual argument. Workers who are respected because they’re individuals with certain inalienable rights (and the ability to vote) aren’t going to be as willing to work through the dead of night, a commonly seen phenomenon throughout China and much of the developing world.
However, if nobody in a democracy votes for politicians willing to build big (or if there’s simply no money left), then you get the irony of Western developed nations, the birthplace of modern marvels like subways and airports, now having the least impressive facilities of their kind.
Then again, a structure that manages to not fall apart under a stiff wind sure has a lot going for it.
(h/t @barbarademick…speaking this Sunday at Shanghai Litfest!)
Note: We now realize that the same video was posted on our site on January 7th. We’ve decided to keep this re-post up, because we’d argue the *ahem* enlightening commentary above justifies it. Thanks for reading!