A 1.5 billion yuan project to rebuild Jinan’s twentieth century railway station, once the largest in east Asia, has attracted criticism both over cost and the building’s ‘imperialist’ history.
The Tianjin-Pukou Railway Jinan Station, once a world-famous landmark site in China, designed by German architect Hermann Fischer, was completed in 1912. The station was regarded as the biggest and most beautiful railway station that had ever been built by Germans in the Far East.
According to the SCMP, concerns surround the replacement’s authenticity. No blueprints of the original building, completed in 1912, have been found and builders will be dependent on the few photos which exist of the old station.
The old station’s German gothic style became a target of Jinan officials. Xie Yutang , then deputy mayor, told local media that the building was a relic of imperialism.
“It reminds me of the suppression Chinese people have suffered in history,” he said. “The lofty green dome looks like the helmets of Hitler’s army.”
Speaking anonymously to the SCMP, a professor of architecture at Shandong Jianzhu University said the reconstruction project was a “front for large-scale property development.”
“The project will make lots of land available to build blocks of flats and shopping malls in one of the most bustling areas in central Jinan. That is the real deal,” he said, declining to be named owing to the sensitivity of the issue.
“The old station is just an excuse. Many people still miss the old bell tower, and the officials have teamed up with real estate developers to cash in on people’s sentimentality.”
“Hastily rebuilding historic buildings for vanity and profit not only results in waste, but can further damage real historic relics that survived previous threats,” says Chen Tian, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research in Beijing.