share Bookmark & Share

Beijing: A villa in the sky

Credit: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Imagine someone building a massive private villa on the roof of a high-rise HDB flat in Bishan or Ang Mo Kio.

If that sounds dangerous and illegal it's because it is.

While nothing of that has happened in Singapore, in Beijing however, things were a little different.

Zhang Lin - a medicine mogul - built his own sprawling 8,600 square feet villa on the top of a residential block. Wanting it resemble a mountainside; the villa comes complete with imitation rocks, rubble, trees and bushes which were hoisted onto the roof of the 26-storey building, to the detriment of the residents.

Unsurprisingly, numerous structural problems were experienced during the construction.

Broken pipes, flooded units, cracks in the ceiling and the construction noises were so bad that the residents complained incessantly to the authorities for years. That the roof had not collapsed under the sheer weight is a miracle unto itself.

Yet, no action was taken during the construction and Lin went on to build what he called ‘an ornamental garden' at the expense of the residents' privacy and peace of mind. One such resident accused Lin of being arrogant and dismissive when approached.

Credit: REUTERS/Jason Lee

Adding fuel to the fire, Lin would hold late night parties that were so loud it made sleeping difficult for the residents on the upper-most floors.

As a result of this blatant disregard for safety or laws, the public began accusing the authorities of shirking their responsibility when they failed to prevent Lin from creating his private residence on account of him being a member of the wealthy elite.

Interestingly, Lin served as a member of Beijing's Haidian district's political advisory body.

Thus, it was no surprise that the public viewed this as a symbol of the nation's lax rules when wealthy and highly connected individuals were involved.

Perhaps the residents were unfair in their assessment but it is understandable as the authorities were silent during the entire construction process.

It was only after the construction was completed and pictures of the giant illegal structure were circulated online did the authorities take notice. Lin was then given a 15-day window to produce proof that his villa was legally built, failing which, the authorities would tear it down.

During that time, the local police have stated that they received no such proof from Lin and were en route to tear the structure down.

However, much damage had already been done.

Should the structure be torn down, it'll be an inconvenience to Lin but the true victims are without doubt the residents. They suffered through the construction and if the government takes it down by force, they'll suffer through the removal.

Credit: Jia Shuo

The structural integrity of the building is in question and what harm it had inflicted on the building would surely be exacerbated by its deconstruction. Should it collapse while the authorities dismantle it, the result would be disastrous.

However, despite the method, which was deplorable, the idea itself does present a unique alternative to dense cities that are running out of space.

Given well planned architecture, incorporating additional housing on blocks of flats that are connected by sky bridges may in fact, provide a unique and much-needed albeit unconventional approach to declining space.

Although in Singapore, sky gardens are a dime a dozen, using valuable space for aesthetical purposes over practical ones does seem counter-productive to our space issue.

If the building height limit can be fulfilled, there are different, maybe even better routes we can take.

Imagine several connected blocks of flats where up top are houses and make-shift streets arranged like it was a suburban neighbourhood.

Or neighbourhood schools located above the blocks, making it even more convenient for kids to attend class. Perhaps provision shops and grocery stores can take up space on the roof too. The less polluted air will certainly be better for everyone.  

These possibilities are only limited by one's imagination.

Written by: Christopher Chitty

Similar stories:

Centralia: The real Silent Hill

Mysterious places: Terrible Tilly

The lost city of Singapore

    share Bookmark & Share