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Politics & Current Affairs

Chinese Piracy Extends To Architecture

Using technology, pirates are literally cloning buildings made by famous Western architects, and have even succeeded in replicating an entire Austrian town. Reactions range from outrage to curiosity about future creative mutations.

What’s the Latest Development?

Avant-garde architect Zaha Hadid has designed a number of popular buildings across China, including the two-year-old Guangzhou Opera House. However, one of her Beijing projects in progress is currently being duplicated by a team in the southern city of Chongqing without her permission, and in fact she now has to race against them to get hers done first. Right now, she says, they are winning; hers won’t be finished until 2014. Although the billionaire developer financing her project is outraged, her team’s reaction is more philosophical. Project director Satoshi Ohashi says, “If someone really likes Zaha, we will probably see more of her designs across China.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Even though intellectual property laws exist in China, enforcement has not been consistent, contributing to the country’s longstanding reputation for piracy. However, cloning entire buildings takes that reputation to a whole new level: Last year, using photography and 3D software, a team of developers was able to recreate an actual Austrian village listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Thanks to such technology, along with the speed of the Internet and of China’s expanding cities, architect Rem Koolhaas says more buildings from these “Photoshop designers” should appear in the years to come.

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