Nation provides a business lifeline to struggling architect firms in the United States and Europe
BEIJING: China's construction boom is providing a lifeline for the world's leading architecture firms, which have been hit hard by the economic crisis.
A model of the 632-meter-high Shanghai Tower. It is scheduled to be completed in 2014 and will be higher than the nearby Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center in the Pudong district of Shanghai. [PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]
In the United States, architectural firms have shed a third of their jobs with fee income similarly down since the summer of 2008, according to the American Institute of Architects.
Their salvation has been China, which has developed an almost insatiable appetite for the latest building technology and design.
This has been symbolized in the past few weeks with the super columns emerging from the foundations in the Pudong district of Shanghai of what will be China's tallest building.
The 632-meter Shanghai Tower is set to be completed in 2014 and will dwarf the nearby Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center - only the Burj Dubai in the Arabian Gulf will stand taller on the world stage.
Dan Winey, managing director of Asia for international architecture firm Gensler, which designed the building, said China was an adventure for many firms.
The practice has offices in Shanghai and Beijing and is hoping to open others in Chengdu and Shenzhen.
"The really exciting thing about China is that clients are willing to take the risk and try something different. China has become a living laboratory for all of us. We are doing a lot of things a lot of developers wouldn't try in the United States," he said.
The contrast with the United States - and to some extent Europe also - could not be starker.
Kermit Baker, chief economist of the American Institute of Architects, said firms have been hit hard.
"Demand just fell off a cliff when the economic crisis began. The recession is only second in magnitude to the Great Depression (of the 1930s) and construction activity completely dried up. The loss of 8 million payroll positions means there is less demand for office space," he said.