NANJING, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- It's the Arc de Triomphe with an oriental twist, but many Chinese netizens think it resembles a pair of long underwear.
The developer of a landmark building in Suzhou has come under fire for the unconventional look of the "Orient Gate" designed by the British architecture firm RMJM.
Suzhou, a city close to Shanghai, has been known for its idyllic courtyard gardens since ancient times.
Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging service, on Tuesday compared the Gate in Suzhou to another controversial foreign-designed landmark building, the state broadcaster CCTV's Beijing headquarters, under the topic "long-johns vs. big boxer shorts." It is trending, with more than 516,482 comments posted just a few hours after the topic originated.
"Why does China look like the playground of foreign designers with laughable architecture ideas?" one blogger commented.
"No matter what kind of pants, it is good construction if it does not fall apart," another blogger wrote. "Otherwise, it will become open-crotch pants."
The 278-meter-high Gate was developed by the private firm Suzhou Chianing Real Estate Co., Ltd to accommodate offices, hotels, malls and apartments. The eight-year construction process is expected to be completed in 2012. The cost of the building was about 4.5 billion yuan (709 million U.S. dollars), according to the company's website.
Xu Kang, the company's vice executive of sales, defended the design, saying the linked-twin-tower structure is based on classic garden gates and ancient city gates in China.
He said the aesthetic features of Suzhou's gardens are so well incorporated into the structure that it "inherits the culture of the city to the maximum extent."
Xu said international big-name design firms participated in the bidding process for the Gate project, with RMJM surfacing as the winner.
The Edinburgh-founded firm has been commissioned for a number of projects in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.
Zhou Qi, an architecture professor with Southeast University, said it is not a bad thing for a piece of architecture to spark controversy.
Zhou said he appreciates the design from a professional point of view. "The gate itself resembles the Arc de Triomphe, but it also has elements of Chinese culture."
But the professor also said big projects like this, especially those landmarks located in city centers, can avoid meeting with such controversy if the public is properly consulted in advance.
"Public involvement in decisions on major architecture projects in China remains very low," Zhou said.
Suzhou's Gate is not the first unconventional piece of architecture to spark controversy in China. Beijing became the focus of criticism for new city landmarks like the CCTV headquarters and the Paul Andreu-designed, egg-shaped National Center for Performing Arts, which sits near the rectangular Tian'anmen Square.