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You mean I need a building permit for that?
August 13, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

A Chinese professor, Zhang Lin, has spent years building an actual mountain on top of an apartment building in Beijing, without ever having received a permit for the construction. Ceilings are cracking in the apartments of his downstairs neighbors.
posted by beagle (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's hope he isn't a physics professor.
posted by ian1977 at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


SO disappointed that I missed this before moving away from Beijing. I'd assumed that it'd probably be out in one of the grim developments outside the Fifth Ring or Sixth Ring, but according to another article, it's near Zizhuyuan Park/Weigongcun, right in the neighborhood around Beijing Foreign Studies University where I used to teach. Any Mefites in Beijing (Abiezer?) feel like hopping on Line 4 and snapping some pictures of this before the 城管 buzzkills swoop in and ruin all the fun?
posted by bokane at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's hope he isn't a physics professor.

Nah. Structural Engineering, but he designed it on his days off.
posted by Floydd at 7:09 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is actually pretty hilarious that he got that far before someone thought, hey wait a minute...does he have a permit?
posted by ian1977 at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Non-Daily Mail link.

Let's hope he isn't a physics professor.

Apparently he runs a Chinese medicine business.
posted by Artw at 7:13 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


buzzkills swoop in and ruin all the fun?

I guess I'm a buzzkill because all I see here is an irresponsible asshole who's ruining other people's homes.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [36 favorites]


Labeling this an actual mountain literally makes my head explode.
posted by brain_drain at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


It is actually pretty hilarious that he got that far before someone thought, hey wait a minute...does he have a permit?

Not exactly...

Authorities took action only after photographs of the villa were splashed across Chinese media on Monday. Newspapers have fronted their editions with large pictures of the complex, along with the headline: "Beijing's most outrageous illegal structure."

The case has resonance among ordinary Chinese who regularly see the rich and politically connected receive special treatment. Expensive vehicles lacking licence plates are a common sight, while luxury housing complexes that surround Beijing and other cities are often built on land appropriated from farmers with little compensation.

China's leader Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on official corruption, and Beijing itself launched a campaign earlier this year to demolish illegal structures, although the results remain unclear.

Demand for property remains high, however, and the extralegal rooftop mansion construction is far from unique. A developer in the central city of Hengyang recently got into hot water over an illegally built complex of 25 villas on top of a shopping centre. He later won permission to keep the villas intact as long as they were not sold to others.

posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's beautiful.
posted by Nelson at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's beautiful until the entire building collapses killing half the residents inside because someone thought 'hey, why don't I stick a mountain on top of this building because I want one and screw checking building specs or what the other residents feel!'
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:18 AM on August 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


What's amazing is the scale of this -- it must have taken months with heavy cranes to do this work. Also, having heard a bit about the challenges even of green roofs designed by experts, there is no way this structure would not lead to devastating water leaks. I'd be amazed if this building could really last all that long; it's physics that's the buzzkill, not people.
posted by advil at 7:18 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


MRW a guy has built an illegal mountain fortress directly above my apartment and cracks are starting to appear in my ceiling and walls.
posted by jquinby at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2013


'It has come to our attention that Professor Zhang did not apply for permission for this structure. So unless he can prove it is safe, it will have to come down,' explained an city official.

He's been at it for SIX years. My neighbors complain if I play my music too loud for six minutes. Can Beijingers be really so tolerant and patient?
posted by three blind mice at 7:21 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now, authorities are giving him 15 days to tear it down.

If he refuses, they'll throw him in "actual" jail.
posted by DU at 7:22 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The key piece of information is in Artw's Guardian link:

The villa's owner has been identified as the head of a traditional Chinese medicine business and former member of the district's political advisory body who resides on the building's 26th floor.

i.e. this is just one more example of the system of official corruption and patronage that runs everything in China.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:23 AM on August 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


The evidence that this is a problem are roof leaks and cracks in walls. If so perhaps there have been mountains on top of just about every apartment building I have ever lived in. Note to self: check Google Maps Satellite View more
posted by srboisvert at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


buzzkills swoop in and ruin all the fun?

Chinese building codes and their enforcement are not exactly the summit of civil engineering on their best day, not even considering what happens after an amateur has piled his ego project onto the roof.

This guy is playing Jenga with a building full of people. What he's built is beautiful, no question, but he should be incarcerated.
posted by mhoye at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Can Beijingers be really so tolerant and patient?

Beijing's official can really be very amenable to looking the other way for an appropriate amount of palm grease.
posted by kmz at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2013


He's been at it for SIX years. My neighbors complain if I play my music too loud for six minutes. Can Beijingers be really so tolerant and patient?

No, he apparently just threatens the neighbors and has them beat up.

South China Morning Post article has identified him actually as Zhang Biqin who is a a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and former member of a district People's Political Consultative Conference who owns a national chain of acupunture clinics.

Some neighbours who had complained over the years suffered harrassment and threats from the owner, Zhang Biqing, local newspapers have reported. One 77-year-old man was beaten up several times by Zhang and eventually forced to move, it was reported. Police didn't seem to have intervened.

This charmer's been quoted to say, “Since I dare to live here, I am not worried about complaints" and "“Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”
posted by astapasta24 at 7:26 AM on August 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


The home was built by Professor Zhang Lin but it has emerged he never had planning permission.

It has emerged? It's pretty obvious that he never could get permission for this.
I'm amazed that people still choose to live in the building, and that the authorities allow people to live in the building.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:29 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


In other news, my neighbor has built a dry stacked brick wall on a 2nd floor deck that's supported by 2x4 posts and disused pallets.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:29 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the post about how rich people in places other than the one I reside in can be douche canoes as well. In a broken logic sort of way it makes me feel a tiny bit better about the shitty things people-with-means do here.

Because it's not like other [read: not rich] people actually count right? Right.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:31 AM on August 13, 2013


Expensive vehicles lacking licence plates are a common sight...

I wonder where they got that idea?
posted by TedW at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


brain_drain: Labeling this an actual mountain literally makes my head explode.

That's no man-made mountain, this is a man-made mountain.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The neighbours did try banging on the ceiling during those 6 years, but for some reason he couldn't hear them.
posted by panboi at 7:40 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Expensive vehicles lacking licence plates are a common sight...

Last time I was in Beijing the problem wasn't cars lacking plates that was a problem, but rather cars having the "right" plates (i.e. military, government) flaunting all sense or traffic laws even more than usual.
posted by kmz at 7:41 AM on August 13, 2013


Just needs to slap a Somebody Else's Problem field round it! Or is it only now an issue because the SEP field has only just been removed?
posted by runincircles at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a great comedy for architects - man navigates chinese bureaucracy to get a variance for a fucking mountain.
posted by Teakettle at 7:45 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


brain_drain: "Labeling this an actual mountain literally makes my head explode."

GO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE.
posted by schmod at 7:47 AM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


filthy light thief: That's no man-made mountain, this is a man-made mountain.

That's no man-mountain, this is a man-mountain.
posted by moonmilk at 7:55 AM on August 13, 2013


Non-Daily Mail link.

Ugh. Thank you. The Daily Mail 'article', aside from just being asssociated with a terrible organization, is terrible in and of itself. It contains very little actual information (it's like they based the whole article off a photo caption), and what scant information it does contain is questionable in its accuracy.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


So it's not so much a case of whimsical eccentric follows his crazy, impractical dream, but local power-broker asserts his dominance by imposing a hazardous inconvenience on his neighbours? That's a lot less cute...
posted by acb at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"“Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”

(farts louder than the singers sing)
(the singers sing louder)
(fart even louder)
(the singers sing louder and louder)
(it becomes like the scene from The Little Mermaid in which Ariel is having her voice stolen by Ursula)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just as real life spies always prove a bit disappointing, it turns out James Bond villains are bit crap in real life too.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a BBC article, complete with actual journalism (i.e., talking to the people involved). Apparently the rocks are fake and the dispute involves an unauthorized sunroom.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:12 AM on August 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


The Daily Mail Online has less journalistic credibility than Reddit. I had a Daily Mail Online article written about a project I did. The, um, reporter? who contacted me was very polite. They were careful to clear copyright permission (a recent innovation for the Daily Mail). They also had some interesting added photographs in addition to my work.

But the text was a complete mess, mislabeling photographs, misspelling my name in two different creative ways, and describing various basic aspects of the project incorrectly. Again the reporter? was quite nice in email, was receptive to making corrections. I got the impression I was the first person to copyedit his article. They did finally correct the most egregious mistakes. I have enough experience with media relations to know that often news articles get things wrong. But I've never worked with an organization before that wasn't even trying very hard to get it right in the first place.

Bonus link: Man-made (Salvation) Mountain.
posted by Nelson at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pace several aesthetic judgments above, I think the thing is ugly.

It's a craggy hat atop a rat trap box.
posted by mistersquid at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last time I was in Beijing the problem wasn't cars lacking plates that was a problem, but rather cars having the "right" plates (i.e. military, government) flaunting all sense or traffic laws even more than usual.

I see your Beijing officials and raise you Chicago's unmarked police cars..
posted by srboisvert at 8:15 AM on August 13, 2013


Pace several aesthetic judgments above, I think the thing is ugly.

Yeah, it sounds cool, but is actually just tacky rich person shit.
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently the rocks are fake and the dispute involves an unauthorized sunroom.

That's according to the owner anyway, so not exactly a reliable source.
posted by kmz at 8:18 AM on August 13, 2013


A friend of mine was kidnapped in China, and when I asked her why she didn't just use her phone to call the cops, she asked me, "Are you crazy? Call the police in China, on purpose?" She was convinced that the police would figure out who was the richer/more politically connected person in the room, and arrest her instead of the people detaining her! So the cops not bothering to intervene here doesn't surprise me. If someone called the cops in Beijing to complain that there was an illegal mountain on their roof, the response would be something like, "Ah, but how will you prove that there's a mountain on your roof?" And if they pressed it, the complainers would get beaten up by the police, in addition to getting beaten up by the jerk upstairs.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:27 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I guess this guy is... China Mountain Zhang.

Boom tish.

* slightly obscure Sci Fi joke.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


filthy light thief: That's no man-made mountain, this is a man-made mountain.

That's no man-made mountain, this is a man-made mountain.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2013


People, people, people. This is simply an example of the Free Market functioning in its most ideal state. This man is exercising his right to have a home the way he wants it. If it were actually unsafe, the Free Market would correct things and everyone would move out of the building. The building is still occupied, ergo this man's modest addition to his abode cannot possibly be unsafe.

Who knew Libertarian paradise could be found in China?

Alternate snark: "They bought their tickets, the knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash!"
posted by backseatpilot at 8:50 AM on August 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


From dirigibleman's link:

The owner and constructor, Zhang Biqing, told the Newshour programme on BBC World Service radio that the fake mountain was made of light materials including plastic and resin.

So I guess the literal mountain is not even made of literal rock.


Or even . . .


Wait for it . . .




Littoral rock.





YEAHHHHHHH
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:58 AM on August 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I call this piece Sympathy for your Co-op Board.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:16 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is just another example of a disruptive 2.0 entrepreneur shaking up the business of Big Mountain. Sure a few people might be crushed in their own homes and it might be horrifically dangerous, but this is what you can accomplish with this new, innovative approach. There's probably even an Iphone app for it, which renders any enterprise exempt from permits and inspections.
posted by stet at 9:21 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


If we're going to do the sunglasses gag here, we should just go all in and add downvotes so I can downvote them.
posted by Naberius at 9:25 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, I actually kind of like "littoral rock."

I'm so conflicted...
posted by Naberius at 9:26 AM on August 13, 2013


The evidence that this is a problem are roof leaks and cracks in walls.


If these are indeed fake rocks, as per the BBC link, I wonder if this is not merely an attempt to find a scapegoat for some shoddy construction (admittedly, an eccentric penthouse-dweller with a bunch of fake rocks on the roof would be an easy target). In a similar vein, I was once told by my landlord in a Victorian house I lived in that I could no longer use the mantlepiece of the (non-functional) fireplace in my bedroom as a bookshelf because the weight was causing the ceiling below to crack. Yes, of course I understand that it is not the three-quarters of a ton of bricks making up the fireplace, but the two dozen paperbacks atop it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:34 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's really neat. My comment was going to be why didn't he build it out of styrocrete, but it sounds like from the second article, the weight of resin and plastic might not be the problem, more the soil and water for the trees and plants. It would be great to have urban access with plants and an arbor, a small fountain, and a natural zen-type outdoor place on your roof. But not if it's going to land in the neighbor's living room downstairs.

Labeling this an actual mountain literally makes my head explode.

Labeling this a literal mountain actually makes my head explode.
--Na, that doesn't work either.


Littoral rock.

Curious Artificer wins the thread!
posted by BlueHorse at 9:47 AM on August 13, 2013


Story has made it to CNN (teevee) I wonder if they have some intern monitoring MiFi?
posted by sammyo at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2013


Dahei was this guy thinking?
posted by orme at 10:30 AM on August 13, 2013


Made from paper maché and a dream.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:41 AM on August 13, 2013


Looks more like a scheme to drive people out of the building than anything else.
posted by jamjam at 12:07 PM on August 13, 2013


Story has made it to CNN (teevee) I wonder if they have some intern monitoring MiFi?

Assuming CNN got it from Metafilter makes as much sense as assuming all Metafilter stories come from Reddit.
posted by kmz at 1:01 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, having heard a bit about the challenges even of green roofs designed by experts, there is no way this structure would not lead to devastating water leaks.

My understanding of green roofs was not that they lead to leaks, but that they make leak detection much more difficult, if not impossible, when they do develop. Making things worse is that insurers don't (or until recently didn't) know what to do with them, and I've actually heard stories of people building these lovely green homes into hillsides and stuff and not being able to insure them properly at the end.
posted by Hoopo at 3:03 PM on August 13, 2013


Shades of Broken Angel art house in Brooklyn. (Previously)
posted by larrybob at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2013


This guy is playing Jenga with a building full of people.

Oh, spare me the concern trolling. If you knew anything about China's 国情 -- an all-purpose excuse that I like to translate as "peculiar institution[s]" -- you'd understand that other people never, ever matter, unless they're rich or politically connected. Please, try to be less West-centric in your views.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hop in my leopard-skin BMW and drive over to my successful canned-air business, avoiding traffic by driving at 250% of the speed limit in the bike lane all the way. Later, proles!
posted by bokane at 9:16 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The rocks are "fake." And the reporter in the video shows a very large piece of globby concrete. Perhaps this is what is meant by "fake." It's much easier to bring up sacks of Portland cement.
posted by user92371 at 10:11 PM on August 13, 2013


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a short video of the illegal structure taken from a drone camera.

It looks like he has an array of solar panels in one corner and was still working on finishing the topmost part of the structure.
posted by tksh at 4:47 AM on August 15, 2013


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