August 2018. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city park quite like Jinhua Architecture Park! Fittingly, the story of its creation and eventual abandonment is a story to raise even the most lethargic of eyebrows. With its charming location along a two-kilometer stretch of The Yiwu River, the park was the brainchild of the incredibly talented but highly controversial Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Built in 2002 to honor his late father (the renowned poet Ai Qing), the park is comprised of seventeen pavilions, each one designed by a different international artist.
August 2018. Jinhua Architecture Park was supposed to put the sleepy backwater city of Jinhua on the map. As construction took place there were big plans set in motion, such as converting a number of the structures into cafes, restaurants, art studios and galleries. But for one reason or another these grand ideas never came to fruition. Some say local authorities simply ran out of money, others believe the plug was pulled when it became clear the park could never be profitable. Many however blame Wei Wei’s spectacular fall from grace when he was imprisoned for his public criticism of the Chinese government. The first building I came across was Cafe House by another respected Chinese artist, Wang Shu. Eternally locked, you can peer inside the filthy windows to catch a glimpse of its dust-shrouded emptiness.
August 2018. Most of the buildings have a little plaque outside providing some very basic information (in Chinese) of what you’re looking at. This pavilion is called Multimedia Room and through the garbled content of my translation app I learned that it was made by a German architect who 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 any of that when I opened the door and wandered inside to be met by nothing but must, dirt, discarded litter and shattered glass.
August 2018. Bridge Teahouse was presented to the park by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero. My translation of its accompanying plaque was so mangled it was pretty much gobbledygook. I can only guess, as its name suggests, that it would have made a lovely teahouse with its location overlooking a pretty green stream. There are some decent fish to be had too judging by the two dudes I saw attempting to catch some dinner.
August 2018. This curious giant sculpture is Zen Space by a group of Swiss architects from The Institute of Technology in Zurich. It’s described as “a cube that follows the scale of typical human activities such as standing and reading and then being extended into three dimensional collisions that symbolize the confusion of humanity”. Hmm, and there was me thinking it just made a good selfie. It was impossible for me to squeeze all of the park’s cool stuff into one travel report, so look out for my second installment, published tomorrow!
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.