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Last edited 15 Oct 2021
10 Great Buildings
On 1 October 1959, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the 10th anniversary of its foundation. As part of this tribute, the country took its 'Great Leap Forward' - a cultural initiative that highlighted architecture and urban planning.
This Great Leap Forward included the construction of the 10 Great Buildings along with the expansion of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The goal of the project was to establish Beijing as a modern city with its own architectural aesthetic - one without western or imperial influences.
 The process
Most of the buildings were constructed in the 10 months leading up to the 10th anniversary. The work was undertaken through a collaborative effort by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, the Beijing Planning Bureau and the Ministry of Construction.
Stylistically, the buildings blended Socialist Realism and International Modernism. Of the 10 Great Buildings, four featured traditional Chinese decorative motifs while six incorporated principles of the modernist style associated with Chinese brutalism.
 The traditional buildings
- The Cultural Palace of Nationalities is a medium rise building with traditional Chinese design elements. It has won numerous awards and is considered an outstanding example of modern Chinese-style design.
- The Beijing railway station is the work of architects Yang Tingbao and Chen Deng'ao. When it first opened, it was the largest of its kind in the country. Located within the old walled city, it replaced the old station built in 1901. Traditional design elements include gilded eaves.
- The National Agriculture Exhibition Hall was designed and overseen by Premier Zhou Enlai. At the time of its construction, it was the only exhibition centre in China designed in the country's traditional garden style.
- The Diaoyutai State Guesthouse also incorporates elements of the ancient garden in its design. It was once reserved for special state visits, but it is open to the public now.
The Cultural Palace of Nationalities
The Beijing railway station.
The Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
These buildings emphasise functionality and incorporate very little decoration:
- The Workers’ Stadium (renovated in 2004) is a multi-purpose stadium that can now hold more than 66,000 spectators. It hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008 and is now used for football matches.
- The Minzu Hotel is still in operation and has 507 guest rooms. It is commonly used to host foreign dignitaries or as a backdrop to press conferences.
- The Overseas Chinese Hotel was demolished in the 1990s. There is a new hotel in its place.
- The Great Hall of the People is home China’s top legislative body and hosts other ceremonial activities. It is located on the edge of Tiananmen Square. It is distinguished by the 10 freestanding columns across the facade, which are said to be inspired by an Egyptian sun temple.
- The National Museum of China was originally known as the China Revolutionary History Museum. It is also located on the edge of Tiananmen Square, and like the Great Hall, it incorporates 10 freestanding columns in its facade.
- The Chinese People's Revolutionary Military Museum is the only extensive military museum in the country. The seven storey building includes social realist sculptures of workers near the entryway which is topped by a steeple. Inside the museum, marble staircases and high ceilings are similar to those in the Great Hall of the People.
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