One Chinese man – Zhang Biqing – let nothing stop him from building his idyllic mountain retreat, not even government safety regulations or the concerns of his neighbors. Biqing, a successful practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, spent six years piling rocks and plants into and around his penthouse on the 1000-square-meter roof of a 26-story apartment building in Beijing.
zhang biqing, a doctor of traditional medicine and owner of a successful chain of acupuncture clinics, has spent the past six years building a mountaintop villa– albeit on a bejing hi-rise rooftop. the illegal penthouse, while striking with its shrub-filled, bucolic-looking rocky expanse, has quickly become a symbol of systemic disregard for authority and regulation in contemporary chinese building culture.
The sprawling synthetic landscape is essentially a private mountain peak embedded with a luxury villa and adds an extra two storeys to the 26 level building. the high-end residential compound in beijing’s haidan district, aptly dubbed park view, is conspicuously topped by the rocky terrain, winding walkways and garden trellises. the unabashed complex of staggered rooms has been subject to years of complaints by neighbors, but only recently have authorities deemed 1000 square meter mansion prime for demolition. the owner, a successful director of a traditional chinese medicine practice and former member of the district’s political advisory board, has 15 days to demolish the 15 million yuan (over 2.4 million USD) structure or provide incontrovertible proof that it is safe and structurally sound.
the issue of illegally built architecture is symptomatic of greater issues of economic disparity and the vague limits of ownership in the space-hungry country. in china, technically all land belongs to the state and homebuyers are merely bestowed a 70-year lease, thereby creating an opportunistic climate for wealth-based impunity and rampant corruption to quickly manifest in the formation, alteration and acquisition of contested spaces.