Infrastructure may not be glamorous … unless, of course, it happens to be so stand-out it’s comical … or scary. And naturally, modern China ticks all the boxes.
A few weeks ago I was taken aback by Hangzhou’s ‘legendary’ beauty. There are certainly buildings in Hangzhou that look like they don’t belong … and then there’s this monstrosity. Yes, it’s a mothership, and it’s landed.
Or it’s just the fact that Hangzhou East Railway Station has just been fully completed: 30 platforms … in a single phase, and a single concourse. It outdoes any station in its larger neighbour Shanghai, and by extension, any station concourse in Europe or Australia, for size. And it’s apparent from far away that its very image is there to intimidate. Or at least assert its importance to Hangzhou and Hangzhou’s importance to China.
The fact that it looks so bland, with bare concrete on the outside, is almost a testament to the mass-produced, utilitarian nature of much of China’s contemporary architecture, such that one of my companions remarked at how every station in China looked the same in the inside. But with this blandness, the station building wants you to ignore all pretences and nuances of supposed beauty or refinement and think two things with its sweeping, almost aerodynamic lines and in-your-face brute concrete: Futuristic. Gargantuan.
And inside it is no less impressive: