Photo: Via The Telegraph.
There's a saying, mistakenly attributed to Freud, that goes, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Conversely, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck, they say. Just swap out the vowel in "duck," and you're well on your way to describing the new headquarters for the state-run People's Daily newspaper in Beijing. Nearly complete, the building has elicited a number of comparisons to the male anatomy ever since it was, uh, erected earlier this year. But, is it a duck, or just a cigar?
Zhou Qi, the building's chief architect and a professor from the Southeast University School of Architecture, told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that those comparisons are simply part of the "unexpected interpretations" that are part and parcel of any designer's work. "When the scaffolding is taken down upon the completion of construction, people will stop seeing it as a phallic tower," he said.
The building, which stands at about 600 feet tall and cost over $246 million, will house the People's Daily's newsroom, succinctly described by The Telegraph as "the Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper and a notorious propaganda sheet."
Phallic architecture, of course, has a long history — from ancient temples devoted to the worship of the phallus to aggressively symbolic monuments to power, like the Vendôme column in Paris and the Washington Monument. In 1974, Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre discussed what he called "phallic verticality" in his book The Production of Space: "The arrogant verticality of skyscrapers, and especially of public and state buildings, introduces a phallic or more precisely a phallocratic element into the visual realm; the purpose of this display, of this need to impress, is to convey an impression of authority to each spectator." That's pretty much the MO of any authoritarian regime, no?
In contrast, Zhou described his building as “stable, rational, and rounded with curved lines,” according to The Telegraph. Another state-run paper, China Daily, also rebuffed comparisons to the male generative organ. "From a bird's-eye view, the building resembles the Chinese character ren, which means 'people' in Chinese. It is also the first character of the Chinese name of People's Daily, an interesting coincidence Zhou did not think about until he finished his design." But, as terrestrial creatures, we don't get the bird's-eye view. We get the duck's. (The Telegraph)