The Chongqing skyline towers above the Jialing River at sunset.
y late afternoon the twin towers of the Sheraton Hotel in Chongqing have become a blinding testament to the city’s newfound wealth and power. As their golden glass reflects the sun’s low orb, passersby don sunglasses to counter the glare. A steady stream of SUVs and luxury sedans pull up outside, unloading well-heeled residents eager to sample the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Love it or hate it, the architectural bling of the Sheraton Chongqing demands attention. While the golden tower sits at the more extreme end of this south-west Chinese city’s slew of ostentatious new structures, it typifies a trend. Chongqing is here and it wants the world to notice. Once described as the “biggest city you’ve never heard of,” Chongqing is slowly raising its profile, just as its skyline seems to inch taller every week. While “Chicago on the Yangtze,” one of the newer mantras being bandied around, is still fanciful, the city’s built environment is today showing signs of a slow maturation. “A large and continuous building frenzy does not always result in the best quality,” says professor Will Alsop, director of London-based architectural firm aLL Design, which also has an office in Chongqing. “Now we have grown more used to Chongqing’s sense of importance, however, the quality is coming,” he says.
ATYPICAL METROPOLIS By 2030, one in every eight people on the planet will live in a Chinese city. Nowhere is China’s urban transformation more evident than in Chongqing, the largest city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with an estimated popula46 BLUE WINGS OCTOBER 2016
The bold architecture of the Sheraton Chongqing