Architecture in China: The 10 craziest Chinese buildings

GUANGZHOU CIRCLE

Housing a plastics company and trading centre, this wheel-like building looks as if it's about to roll into the muddy Pearl River. It's the world's tallest circular building and, unlike many others, its central hole is open to the air. Some compare it to ancient jade discs and Chinese coins, others note river reflections produce the lucky number eight. It must be working: $38 billion of plastics are traded here annually. See gz.gov.cn

OLYMPIC GREEN, BEIJING

Relive the spirit of the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a visit to Olympic Green, where you get a double whammy of whacky architecture. The National Stadium (aka Bird's Nest) looks as if it was built by crazed storks, while the eye-popping National Aquatics Centre (aka Water Cube) appears to be covered in bubble wrap. It now houses a water theme park where you can swim beneath giant suspended jellyfish. See n-s.cn and water-cube.com

TEAPOT BUILDING, WUXI

Wuxi is a major tourist town and ancient trading port on the lower Yangtze near Shanghai, but particularly known to the Chinese as a source of red clay teapots. What better shape, therefore, than a 15th-century teapot for the 10-storey edifice housing the tourist information office? The building, which was funded by a local billionaire, is made from steel covered in aluminium sheets and stained glass, and can rotate 360 degrees. See wuxi.gov.cn

CCTV HEADQUARTERS, BEIJING

This 44-storey building – is it one building bent over, or two joined together? – resembles a strange gateway or Mobius strip or, according to detractors, a giant pair of boxer shorts. Its radical shape and huge cantilever were a huge structural challenge considering its location in an earthquake zone. It looks best at night when illuminated in appealing, somewhat muted colours, over which its structural black tubing zigzags. See cctv.com

STARSHIP ENTERPRISE, CHANGLE

You probably have to see this building from the air to appreciate it looks just like the USS Enterprise, even if it's officially known as the Sunny Heaven Building. Built by a Star Trek fan with far too much money in order to house his gaming company, the homage stops in the interior, which is a regular office building. It's the only officially licensed Star Trek building in the world. See netdragon.com

HOT SPRING RESORT, HUZHOU

Designed by the appropriately named MAD Architects, this Sheraton hotel rises beside Taihu Lake, a two-hour drive from Shanghai, like a giant doughnut, though it's actually supposed to reference classical humpback bridges. At night, LED lights on its exterior provide ever-changing, multi-coloured patterns that make the hotel glow and provide marvellous reflections in the lake water. The resort comprises suites, villas and a spa village served by hot springs. See starwoodhotels.com

ALIEN EGG, BEIJING

It's not hard to see why the National Centre for Performing Arts is nicknamed "the Giant Egg", or as Beijingers call it, "Alien Egg", though it's a flattened egg, perhaps more resembling a water droplet. The giant ovoid is covered in titanium on one half and glass on the other, and rises out of an artificial lake that creates near-perfect reflections, best appreciated at night under spotlights. It's reached via an underwater corridor with glass ceilings that provide rippling light. See chncpa.org

ORDOS MUSEUM, KANGBASHI

This brand-new museum in Inner Mongolia is said to be inspired by the Gobi Desert, though the Gobi Desert doesn't appear to have any other huge polished metal blobs lying about. The facade is covered in metal louvres, dispensing with the need for windows and reflecting the surroundings so that the blob sometimes seems to merge into the landscape. The light-filled interior has sinuous shapes and feels like walking through an Arizona canyon. See zxm.nmgtour.gov.cn

LOTUS BUILDING, WUJIN

We have Aussie architects Studio 505 to thank for one of China's most beautiful weird buildings, a series of three lotus blossoms of graded pinks and purples and an interior as flooded with light and colour as a contemporary cathedral. The complex houses municipal buildings and a conference centre, some of it partly hidden beneath the lake. Changing facade colours make this a popular local spot for an evening stroll. See cnto.org

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PIANO-AND-VIOLIN BUILDING, HUAINAN

Now that you think about it, what better place for a rehearsal and performance space for music students than a couple of giant musical instruments? The glass violin forms the atrium and houses stairs and escalators, while the piano body hides the useful parts of the building. There's a roof terrace under the open lid. The music students have gone, sadly, and this is now a showroom for city development plans. Whatever next? See ah.gov.cn

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of tourism offices and at his own expense.

See also: Ten of the weirdest shaped hotels

See also: Ten amazing, giant buildings you've never heard of

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