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Travel Report: Jinhua Architecture Park Part I, China.

Jinhua Architecture Park Zhejiang province China

August 2018. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city oasis like Jinhua Architecture Park! Moreover, the story of its creation and eventual abandonment is a tale to raise even the most lethargic of eyebrows. Spread out across a two kilometre stretch of The Yiwu River, Jinhua Architecture Park was created by the talented and controversial Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.

Ai Wei Wei Chinese artist Jinhua Architecture Park China.

Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.

Built in 2002 to honour his late father (the renowned poet Ai Qing), Jinhua Architecture Park features seventeen pavilions, each one designed by a different international artist.

Ceramic House.

Ceramic House Jinhua Architecture Park Zhejiang province China

Ceramic House.

Jinhua Architecture Park.

The first building I saw on the day of my visit was the somewhat forlorn looking Ceramic House. Besides an accompanying board bearing its name, there was no other information available.

The park was supposed to put the sleepy backwater city of Jinhua on the map. When construction started in early 2002, Ai Wei Wei had ambitious plans. Eventually, he wanted to convert a number of the structures into cafes, restaurants, art studios and galleries. His vision was a thriving complex full of life.

But for one reason or another these grand ideas never came to fruition. Some say local authorities simply ran out of money. Others insist investors pulled the plug upon realising the park could never be profitable.

Archaeological Archives.

Jinhua Architecture Park Zhejiang Province China.

Jinhua Architecture Park.

Dig around online and you’ll find plenty of claims that the park’s failure was all down to Wei Wei’s fall from grace. In fact, his regular criticism of the Chinese government often landed him in hot water. In 2011 authorities detained him for a period of 81 days under an unofficial charge of “economic crimes”. While he was later released without major consequence, it was nevertheless game over for his grand project in Jinhua.

Multimedia Room.

Most of Jinhua Architecture Park’s buildings have a little plaque outside providing some very basic information in Chinese. The pavilion in the above video is called Multimedia Room.

Through the garbled content of my translation app, I learned that an unnamed German architect made the building. Apparently, he wanted to show that “The multimedia experience is not only confined to the virtual space. But also has characteristics that enable people to truly gather together in reality”. Not that I could particularly feel this when I opened the door and wandered inside. Met by nothing but must, dirt, discarded litter and shattered glass.

Bridge Teahouse

Bridge Teahouse Jinhua Architecture Park Zhejiang Province China.

Jinhua Architecture Park, China.

Bridge Teahouse is an addition by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero. My translation of its accompanying plaque proved so mangled it read as nothing more than gobbledygook. I can only guess, as its name suggests, that it would have made a lovely teahouse. Especially due to its location overlooking a pretty green stream. It’s also a popular fishing spot, judging by the two dudes attempting to catch dinner.

Zen Space.

Zen Space Jinhua Architecture Park Zhejiang province China

Jinhua Architecture Park, China.

This curious giant sculpture is Zen Space, by a group of Swiss architects from The Institute of Technology in Zurich. According to its info board, the sculpture is “a cube of three dimensional collisions that symbolise the confusion of humanity”. Which certainly confused me.

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It was impossible for me to squeeze all of the park’s cool stuff into one travel report. Please do check out my second instalment, Jinhua Architecture Park Part II.

For more on my adventures in this largely unknown city, check out my other reports on Jinhua.

Interested in reading more about China? Why not click through my stacks of articles from all around the country.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Memo

    Unique and more than a little sad. What attracted you?

    June 3, 2020 - 8:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was just so curious about this park of ghost buildings. They had literally been left to rot and somehow I just felt I had to see them. And I’ve always been attracted to those Chinese cities where I know I’m not going to see another westerner.

      June 3, 2020 - 8:05 pm Reply
  • Travel with a Pen

    I love the architecture of the Bridge Teahouse. It is quite sad to read about Ai Wei Wei and the slow death of this park. But the surroundings still look maintained, so I guess that’s something to be happy about since it shows that people still care about it.

    June 4, 2020 - 7:00 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, I’m glad you liked the article. Yeah, there was a definite sadness to the neglect of all those buildings. But as you say, the park is still a place that’s full of life. And the buildings give it something different.

      June 4, 2020 - 9:39 am Reply

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