Spiegel Online: “Star architect Zaha Hadid is currently building several projects across China. One of them, however, is being constructed twice. Pirates are the process of copying one of her provocative designs, and the race is on to see who can finish first.
London-based Zaha Hadid, widely regarded as one of the leading lights in the constellation of avant-garde architecture, has likewise become a superstar in China, where her latest designs radiate out through architecture schools and studios across the country. On a recent trip to Beijing, 15,000 artists, architects and other fans swarmed to a talk she gave for the opening of the futuristic Galaxy SOHO complex — just one of 11 projects she is designing across the country.
But the appeal of the Prtizker Prize winner’s experimental architecture, especially since the unveiling of her glowing, crystalline Guangzhou Opera House two years ago, has expanded so explosively that a contingent of pirate architects and construction teams in southern China is now building a carbon copy of one of Hadid’s Beijing projects.
What’s worse, Hadid said in an interview, she is now being forced to race these pirates to complete her original project first.
The project being pirated is the Wangjing SOHO, a complex of three towers that resemble curved sails, sculpted in stone and etched with wave-like aluminum bands, that appear to swim across the surface of the Earth when viewed from the air.
Zhang Xin, the billionaire property developer who heads SOHO China and commissioned Hadid to design the complex, lashed out against the pirates during the Galaxy opening: “Even as we build one of Zaha’s projects, it is being replicated in Chongqing,” a megacity near the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. At this point in time, she added, the pirates of Chongqing are building faster than SOHO. The original is set for completion in 2014.
‘China Can Copy Anything’
Zhang has issued an open appeal for help in combatting this massive, open counterfeiting operation, and lamented: “Everyone says that China is a great copycat country, and that it can copy anything.”
Piracy is pervasive in China, where counterfeit iPods, iPhones and iPads are sold openly, and even entire fake Apple stores have proliferated across upwardly mobile cities. Although China has, on paper at least, a series of laws to protect intellectual property, enforcement of these rules is wildly sporadic.
Yet You Yunting, a Shanghai-based lawyer who founded an online journal covering intellectual property issues, said China’s copyright law includes protection for works of architecture. You said he has studied the copying of the Hadid project, and added: “The two versions of the complex are quite similar.”
“SOHO could have a good chance of winning litigation in this case,” he predicted. “But even if the judge rules in favor of SOHO, the court will not force the defendant to pull the building down. But it could order the payment of compensation.”"