China’s twin towers? Hangzhou skyscrapers look strangely familiar

Due to be completed in 2022, the zhejiang gate towers will be hangzhou’s tallest at 280 metres
Due to be completed in 2022, the Zhejiang Gate Towers will be Hangzhou’s tallest at 280 metres / © Lava

Hangzhou already boasts a copycat Eiffel Tower, while other Chinese cities have versions of Manhattan and Tower Bridge. But the firm behind the Zhejiang Gate Towers says any resemblance to New York’s World Trade Center is unintentional

Hangzhou, a city in eastern China with a population of 9 million, is best known for its tourist-magnet West Lake area and historic buildings – even if local authorities have allowed the latter to be converted into McDonald’s and Starbucks branches.

Despite the pace of recent developments – partly due to Hangzhou becoming a business hub for technology companies – the city has largely left the macho tower-building to its neighbour Shanghai, located 180km northeast, and China’s other expanding megacities.

There is, however, another reason why artist’s impressions of a major new Hangzhou development, set to begin construction next year, have caused a stir. The Zhejiang Gate Towers, designed by Australian-German firm Lava, bear a striking resemblance to New York’s twin towers.

Their shape is so similar to the old one and two World Trade Center buildings that, on first glance, it’s hard to quell suspicions that this yet another case of China’s obsession with copycat architecture. Hangzhou already has its own version of the Eiffel Tower, while in Tianjin, north-east China, a version of Manhattan is being launched.

But talking to the Guardian from his Berlin office, Lava’s co-founder Tobias Wallisser laughs off the twin towers comparison. “Well, I did live in New York when I studied there, and of course the World Trade Center was an iconic structure,” he says, adding that a World Trade Center copy was never part of Lava’s Hangzhou design brief or specifically mentioned as a marker point. […]

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