Whenever you're talking about the world's biggest, largest, tallest or fastest, chances are China is somehow involved. After all, the People’s Republic boasts the world’s biggest shopping mall and museum, tallest statue and highest observation deck, among other superlatives. And, as of this week, you can add the world’s largest freestanding building to the growing list.
The New Century Global Center in Chengdu, in Sichuan in western China, is so big that it’s got its own artificial sun. Indeed, at 500 meters (1,640 feet) long, 400 meters (1,310 feet) wide and 100 meters (325 feet) high, it’s massive enough to hold 20 Sydney Opera Houses or three Pentagons, according to local authorities.
Of course, you won’t find any Sydney Opera Houses or Pentagons inside this 1.76 million-square-meter (18.94 million-square-foot) space. The colossal structure, which opened June 28 under the management of Exhibition and Travel Group, is like an enclosed town, with businesses, offices, shopping malls, theaters, two five-star hotels, a skating rink and even a water park called Paradise Island with an “indoor beach.” The New Century Global Center also boasts a faux Mediterranean village, following the bizarre trend in China for copycat European towns.
The exterior of the new mega-structure is shaped like a wave, while the interior has a marine theme, despite the fact that the nearest ocean is some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away. The Japanese-designed artificial sun, meanwhile, will shine 24 hours a day and offer a welcome respite from the thick smog that typically blankets Chengdu’s streets.
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The building forms the centerpiece of a recently developed area known as Tainfu New District on the outskirts of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Like many Chinese megacities, this hub of 14 million is rapidly expanding, with a growing subway system and a new airport planned for 2020.
Officials had hoped to have the New Century Global Center completed in time for a global forum hosted by the U.S. magazine Fortune that brought presidents and CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies to the city for two days in early June. That didn’t pan out, but the government isn’t shy about its desire for Chengdu to become the economic capital of western China. Chengdu’s GDP reached 800 billion RMB ($130.48 billion) by the end of 2012, according to state media, ranking it third among China’s sub-provincial cities.
And Chengdu’s expansion plans are far from over. Indeed, another massive structure is planned just across the road from the New Century Global Center. The Chengdu Contemporary Arts Center, designed by award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, boasts its own impressive list of features, including an opera house, theater and museum.