World's largest building opens

it's your standard hotel, indoor beach, office complex, mall, bus station, aquarium, ice rink, cinema, etc.

By Alex Halperin
Published July 9, 2013 3:21PM (EDT)
 An artist's rendering
An artist's rendering

The New Century Global Centre, the largest free-standing building in the world, opened today in Chengdu, China, "an architectural work that rivals the masterpieces in other world class cities." When visitors get bored they can cross a plaza to a swooping arts center by starchitect Zaha Hadid.

Guardian architecture writer Oliver Wainwright takes it in:

A 100m tall cliff-face of blue mirrored glass, stretching 500m along a triumphal plaza, the New Century Global Centre houses an entire seaside resort, along with a 14-screen Imax cinema, Olympic-sized ice rink, two five-star hotels and its own Mediterranean shopping village – all wrapped with a vast ribbon of offices. Sprawling for 1.7m square metres, it could fit 20 Sydney Opera Houses beneath its glass roof. It is declared by its creators to be "a landmark which commands the world and is looked upon by the world with respect," a pleasure dome that Kubla Khan could only dream of....

On entering the echoing 18-storey atrium, lined with a stratified cream cake of hotel balconies and zig-zagging escalators, visitors are blasted with artificial sea breeze, designed to "make one intoxicated, as if he were enjoying himself in the fabulous heaven". Moving past aquarium walls and through a strange hybrid townscape of Polynesian huts crossed with a middle eastern kasbah, tourists arrive at the 400m-long coastline, where the largest artificial waves in the world break in front of the longest LED screen in the world – on which "the alternating morning cloud and twilight afterglow extend the horizon limitlessly in the temporal and spatial directions"...

With offices that are both "comfortable and pompous", entertainment facilities that offer "the most exquisite and extravagant audiovisual pleasures", 1,000 deluxe hotel suites that all enjoy a sea view, and one of the largest shopping malls in China, citizens of the New Century Global Centre are given no reason to leave. But nor might they be able to escape their work: "It is a world class modern city of idyllic beauty," trumpets the promotional video, "where recreation has become the core value of modern business concepts and business will become a way of life."

This video gives an extensive tour of the facility:

Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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Chengdu China Consumerism Video World's Largest Building