I walk past the 375 million dollar Greenland Financial Center development about three or four times a week and have been around since ground was first broken on this behemouth back in 2004. Flash-forward to 2008 and construction is zooming along with the first outer glass plates being added. I have somewhat of an obsession with this particular building. Part of it originating from the fact that it is in Nanjing, it is in my neighborhood, and I have been following it for awhile. It is quite amazing to see this thing going up, and honestly, the design isn’t half bad – I mean, it’s no Jinling Tower (an incredible concept designed as a larger twin to the current Jinling Hotel in Nanjing…now cancelled) but I would say it could hold it’s own relative to the general monotony of China’s provincial cities. The other half stems from the thought that I find this block absolutely bizarre. It’s mere existence is at times boggling.
So what do I think? I don’t know. I just can speculate and some of my speculation is based on the position of Nanjing as a provincial city. A provincial city living in the shadow of Shanghai which means it is often bypassed by major companies/corporations who favor the more accessible Shanghai as a base for regional/national operations. Prestige and power play significant roles. Construction of such a large entity will clearly provide Nanjing with a skyline and bragging rights. This is quite evident in the advertisments for the Greenland tower which often situate the tower within a fictitious western skyline or surrounded by well-known (and smaller) urban landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building.
It could also be an attempt to solidify land rights. Land is a public item in China,controlled by the government. The ambiguity lies in which branch of the government controls it (municipal, provincial or central) and becomes even more convoluted with one consideres that state-owned-enterprises and Danwei, or Units (hospitals, universities, post-office etc.) also control large amounts of land. Better chuck the PLA and the People’s Armed Police in there for fun as well. The more the merrier! The land-use right has been commodified, which allows these bodies to sell the use, but not the ownership of the land, on the open market. Municipal governments often clash with various other government units in an effort to control land within their jurisdiction as more land equals more land-use sales which apparently are now the major source of revenue for local governments, more so that central government funding. Land control is important, possibly the most important aspect of urban politics in China and if you have something big and expensive sitting on your land, it is going to be harder for someone to take it from you.
Again though, I don’t know who ‘owns’ the land that the Greenland Plaza is being constructed on.
Some information regarding the Greenland Plaza:
The form of the Nanjing Greenland Financial Center was derived from three central elements of the rich history of Nanjing: the Yangtze River which flows through the city, the lush, green garden landscape and the dragon and column iconography prevalent in Chinese culture.
The central core of the tower is hugged by two interlocking forms that recall the image of China’s ‘dancing dragons.’ The tower’s exterior wall features angled panes of glass in staggered modules that suggest scales. Vertical and horizontal seams separate the textured glass surfaces, metaphorically relating to the clear water of the Yangtze River separating the great dragon forms.