Landmark project nears completion

Landmark project nears completion

Oriental Gate, a landmark building in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, that has been widely ridiculed for its unconventional underpants shape, is finally nearing completion after more than a decade of construction.

According to Zheng Donghui, president of developer Suzhou Chinaing Real Estate, a 3,400-sq-meter garden will be built on the top floor of the skyscraper. The garden will resemble those listed as World Heritage in Suzhou and will be shared by two presidential suites on the 20-meter-high top floor.

"Many stones needed to construct the garden will have to be lifted by crane to the top floor," Zheng said. "Almost every floor of the building is specially designed because of its shape and complicated structure."

Dubbed "the No 1 Gate in the world", the 301.8-meter-tall building is the largest gate-shaped building in the world. It is located in the CBD of the Suzhou Industrial Park and covers an area of 460,000 sq meters.

The building is well known in China, with many Internet users criticizing that it resembles a pair of long underwear and does not blend in well with the city, which since ancient times has been noted for its delicacy and beauty.

Designed by British architectural firm RMJM, Oriental Gate was meant to resemble Paris' Arc de Triomphe with the characteristics of traditional Chinese gardens.

The 94-story building is also frequently compared by Chinese to the Beijing headquarters of China Central Television, which is called "big underpants" for its controversial appearance.

Construction started in September 2004, but the developer breached the contract at least three times by failing to hand it over to the buyers.

Although many Chinese media reported that the developer's financial problems caused the breach, Xu Lin, planning director of Chinaing, denied the accusation, saying that the firm always has plenty of funds to support the construction.

"Now half of the building's inner decoration as well as 70 percent of the mechanical and electrical facilities have been completed," said Xu. "The building will go through an acceptance check in August or September."