Imagined with bright pink and green lights, standing more than 150m taller than the Burj Khalifa and emerging from an island in a lake in central China, these plans for Wuhan’s Phoenix Towers seem a world away from grey old London.
Yet the ambitious design revealed this week has been put forward by the British architectural firm Chetwoods, and owes much of its inspiration to an award-winning project for a new, greener London Bridge.
The firm was commissioned by China’s Hua Yan Group to come up with an “iconic” attraction for the 47-hectare site in the capital of central China, known as The City of a Thousand Lakes.
And while Wuhan hardly ranks alongside places like Beijing or Shanghai on the radar for many a western tourist, that could all be about to change.
Though the Phoenix Towers plans are still pending the approval of the Wuhan mayor’s office, if given the green light the firm hopes to break ground on the island by the end of the year.
With a budget of £1.2 billion and an estimated build time of three years, chairman Laurie Chetwood said the towers could be a new, finished international landmark by 2017/2018.
He told the Guardian: “This is a big iconic statement that says 'this is Wuhan, look at us, we're here’. But it's an environmental statement as well. It would help to improve the area.”
In pictures: Rise of the Phoenix Towers
In pictures: Rise of the Phoenix Towers
1/5 Phoenix Towers
Chetwoods said the towers' environmental features would include: lightweight photovoltaic cladding; bio-dynamic pollution absorbing coatings; thermal chimneys; suspended air gardens; wind turbines; water harvesting/recycling; waste recycling via biomass boilers and hydrogen fuel cells at ground level
2/5 Phoenix Towers
The main tower will stand at 1km tall, more than 150m heigher than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai
3/5 Phoenix Towers
Three large spheres will be suspended between the Towers, representing orbiting planets. They will house restaurants which have a celestial theme and are accessed via ‘skywalks’ from the Towers themselves
4/5 Phoenix Towers
Chetwoods said: 'This landmark project will showcase social, economic and environmental sustainability in China, providing an entertaining and instructive experience for local people and visitors'
5/5 Phoenix Towers
The 2009 competition-winning scheme for an inhabited London Bridge, which inspired the Phoenix Towers project
Standing at a height of 1,000 metres (3,280 feet), the Phoenix Towers will incorporate features from the 2009 London Bridge project including advanced filtration systems to recycle clean water from the lake below and lightweight photo-voltaic cladding to produce solar power.
The architect says the taller, main tower will accommodate the world’s tallest kaleidoscope, turned by a wind turbine installed at a high level and creating a colourful light display when viewed from the base of the tower below.
There will also be a series of three large spheres “suspended” between the towers, giving it an out-of-this-world appeal. Inside these there will be restaurant spaces with celestial themes, and they will be reachable by “skywalks” from inside the towers themselves.
Chetwoods said their design brief was for towers which involved a new style of architecture emphasising Chinese identity.
“The use of a pair of towers reflects the dualist elements of Chinese culture in contrast to a more western monolithic form,” Chetwoods said.
“Based on the traditional Chinese Phoenix symbol of two birds, male Feng and [female] Huang, the plan was generated from the Yin/Yang form to represent perfectly balanced union.
“The Feng tower uses cutting-edge technology to ‘feed’ the Huang tower with renewable power in a symbiotic process.”
The surrounding ground-based commercial districts will be split up into the cultures of the world, at the investors’ request, including “a French street, a Japanese street, a Turkish street and so forth”. Mr Chetwood said it would allow people “to see the world without necessarily having to leave China”.
His firm is working with two Chinese companies on the Phoenix Towers project – Beijing-based Hua Yan and the CITIC Group, a state-owned investment company.
A spokesperson for Hua Yan said: “We aim to pioneer our new vision via a programme of cultural and creative dialogue and collaboration embracing a new era and new eclectic style that will make the best of China even better.”