Gallery: The 人 REN Building Takes the Form of a Sloping Chinese Charact...


Architecture in China never ceases to amaze us—case in point—the REN Building. Copenhagen’s Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) proposed this eye-catching design over a year ago to coincide with Shanghai’s “Better City, Better Life” 2010 World Expo . The building takes its form from the Chinese character for person 人 (“ren”) and combines two buildings (one symbolic of mind and the other symbolic of body). We love the poetic inspiration that reflects both site and cultural sensitivity.

“The first building, emerging from the water, is devoted to the activities of the body, and houses the sports and water culture center. The second building emerging from land, is devoted to the spirit and enlightenment, and houses the conference center and meeting facilities. The two buildings meet in a 1000 room hotel, a building for living.”

It’ll be exciting to see if the plans for the project are approved. Check out more views and an animated fly-through of the project below.



or your inhabitat account below


  1. kierra September 4, 2008 at 2:13 am

    i dont know what i have to say to describe it into the word, cool,..amazing,…so conceptual,..WOW
    can i get more information about ren building??actually i am studying architecture,..and i got assignment to search modern and monumental building,..When i heard and saw the ren building, i decided to choose ren building as my object,..please send the information to my email…thank you
    have a nice day to all ^^

  2. Cherry May 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

    amazing…….cool!where will it be built in shanghai?

  3. Cherry May 21, 2008 at 9:50 am


  4. aki n apai February 20, 2008 at 11:15 am


  5. osi May 31, 2007 at 11:34 am

    I take that back I see the purpose of the circles now.

  6. osi May 31, 2007 at 11:32 am

    I really liked the night renditition, but after seeing the daytime view I think the circles are a bit over done.

    All in all this is a very bold design.

  7. angga May 14, 2007 at 5:51 am

    coooollll!!!!! fantastic!!!

  8. Squarepants May 14, 2007 at 5:45 am

    However, Shanghai Ren (Shanghainese) are one of the least appreciated people in China, even from their own fellow country men. To me, the building is beautiful, philosophy behind is great but the concept and reality does not blend well.

  9. farzad May 2, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    It is a contraption .!

  10. David April 26, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    My favorite part about the video is the laughable application of the elemental characters and the way they are ‘written’ within the form of the building. For starters, if you’re ‘writing’ the building, strokes go from top to bottom, not in reverse.The geometric abstractions given for each element are actually entirely different characters than the more complicated forms the architects claim they evince. A square means ‘earth’ now? Actually, that’s a mouth. The streched rectangle they call wood looks far more like a mouth radical or the character for the moon than anything, and perhaps that’s where this building belongs. If this were produced by a group of culturally-aware architects, they would have known better. All that said, it looks silly and fun, and that’s all it takes to get built in China these days.

  11. Joe April 22, 2007 at 11:23 am

    More comments on this building over @ Archinect >

  12. Steve April 22, 2007 at 3:10 am

    Despite it looking great, people will hate it. Ergonomically it is crap. There is no way a lift can go directly from the ground to the upper levels.

    According the the video it needs two lift changes to get to the hotel section. Just what travellers will be wanting after long flights.

    Once again design triumphs over common sense.

  13. Brian April 22, 2007 at 1:55 am

    It’s a cool looking building at a first glance, but I have to agree with Jerome and AlexandrePereira. After watching the video, I actually feel it’d be nicer if the design team did not forcefully tie the design to so many Chinese words–thinking it may make it cool. What does Yin, Yang, Fire, Earth and Wood have to do with this site and design? It’s either the rendering has failed miserably in expressing the idea or the design team just want to create something interesting to look at and nothing else.

    I don’t have a problem with literal design. However, it’s just far too often to see them turning into tackiness.

  14. AlexandrePereira April 21, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    It´s culturally sensitive as it is painting green a building and calling it ecological. Even you had the “people” concept a little more interestingly dealt with – and this is reeeeeeally poor – it´d be just a lot of formalism and show-off, Go back to your schools and look at the old World Fairs if you please.
    it is shocking to see people embrace this without any kind of criticism, based only on aerial views, flythroughs and questionably good looks
    What was that about Yin and Yang?? The curved shape recalls the circle? Is that it? I won´t even call it far fetched, I´d say is plain old lying about reason, form, structure and any kind of meaning in architecture.
    Venturi had much more on his side and just look what he´s done…
    C´mon, I sure hope this large-scale no-good-for-urban buildings would be forgotten, but I think I´m on the minority side on this.
    Just think about it…please people!

  15. James N R April 21, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    From an engineering point of you this would be a great achievement. However I fear the the typically simplistic symbolic architectural value (here taken to the absolute literal extreme) is increadibly dubious. It is a shame that we see this kind of self saticfying, poorly thought out design “philosopy” over and over again all over the world and now in china too.

  16. racheblue April 20, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Hmmmm, I liked the design on first glance but can see no evidence of it’s sustainability or ‘green’ credentials. The ‘culturally sensitive’ notion seems a little far fetched too – as for the video – quite shockingly non-descript and somewhat patronisingly implausible!
    On the positive side, I do like the basic design concept (minus the pseudo ‘cultural’ factors) and the futuristic, almost animated feel but think it may need some work in regard to sustainability (eco and otherwise) and location.

  17. tyler April 19, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    There is an elevator in the St. Louis Arch. It travels diagonally.

  18. MKB April 19, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    I don’t see how this is culturally and site sensitive. Simply simply extruding the ren symbol does make for a culturally sensitive building. Sure there is a response to opening up to the water ,but how welcoming is it to walk under the structure. I question how this is sustainable design as well. How does this deal with unwanted sun angles? It seems to me that each facade is treated in the same manner. How does it ventilate? Where is it energy coming from? Or is a huge energy guzzler?

  19. heri siswanto April 19, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    beautiful building…
    may someone tell me bout the detai concept? adn hoh it can build?

  20. Jerome April 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Blech. How pathetically literal. This is the sexy-ed up version of Venturi’s decorated duck shed. And so appropriate for the typically horribly kitsch taste of my fellow Chinese/Taiwanese peeps at home. Hmmm…see a symbol/icon, and directly translate it to form, in this case, architecture. Let’s see…C.Y. Lee’s Taipei 101 and its stacked take-out containers. PoMo couldn’t get any more embarassing with these bad appropriations of cultural sources. Check out

  21. adam April 18, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    That must be the first time I’ve heard BIG called “poetic”. Usually I’d describe their style as “easy-to-sell-diagrams”… But that’s my personal bias.

    Anyways – just found this blog and it’s damned nice and I’ve blogged it. Looking forward

  22. billyD April 18, 2007 at 11:45 am

    If you watch the video it shows how the elevators would work. No need to be continuous from ground to top. With regard to the post-rationalization of the “ren” theme, this is true. But… although the building was designed for a different site it was designed within a similar site context, i.e., providing access to water while building at the water’s edge. Go BIG.

  23. sweden-blew-it April 18, 2007 at 10:53 am

    love the way it has changed life from being proposal for building in Sweden (exact same form) till now now being poetic and meaningful since it happens to look like the symbol ‘ren’ in chinese..
    I’m looking so much forward to see this buildning.

  24. RAUL GARZA April 18, 2007 at 10:49 am


  25. AL April 18, 2007 at 10:42 am

    It is a beautiful building, but it wasn’t meant for the Chinese context. The building was design for a harbor front location in Sweden, much like the current placement but on the other side of the world. So the ‘ran’ thing must be a post-rationalization. From a Danish Architect student that went to a Bjarke Ingels lecture once.

  26. Richie April 18, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Yes… there are questionable aspects of this design… but all in all it’s just too cool to not hope it moves forward towards becoming a reality. I think the Elevators could run on 3 sets of tracks so that they could gyroscopically pivot as they flow up and down. How would they replace broken glass, or paint the steel covered with concrete exterior ? It wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.

    I hope China goes for it. We’ll see.

  27. tommi April 18, 2007 at 5:51 am

    many chinese characters can be transformed into architecture, as long as it has positive meaning… i like this 1 so much, really simple & meaningful ideas from d Danish firm……:)

  28. LemonYelly April 18, 2007 at 4:44 am

    It is an aesthetically beautiful building, but i cannot see the link between this renderings and “a poetic inspiration that reflects both site and cultural sensitivity”. If anything it reflects the insensitivity of the Dane, converting a building into the character/sign to signify something that is beyond its superficial representation. I am disappointed by inhabitant for this mention, as i do not believe it suits the character and focus of the blog.

  29. Robert April 18, 2007 at 12:56 am

    Fantastic especially the kanji theme and circular windows. If only the USA would start investing in itself, we could see such beauty here.

    To answer a prior poster’s question:

    Maybe they’ll have an escalator for the bottom to mid-section and then an elevator from the mid-section to top? That’s what the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan does (but in reverse.)

  30. Paavani April 18, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Really Poetic and awesome piece of architecture!

  31. Zubair Osmani April 17, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Absolutely fantastic and culturally futuristic.

  32. Felipe Castillo April 17, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Very cool, but are they going to have curved elevators as well?

  33. Lynn April 17, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    It’s really quite beautiful–and very unusual! It will definitely be a major landmark in the country. I assume this is to be a green building? If so, let’s hope that by the time this building has been approved and completed, China has indeed become a model for sustainability.

  34. Kevin Milburn April 17, 2007 at 9:19 am


  35. lackar April 17, 2007 at 9:06 am

    It’s fantastic.I know “ren” very well.I’m a Chinese.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home