Asia Life

Professor Zhang’s Illegal Hanging Villa of Beijing

A mysterious Beijing man has built an illegal rooftop villa of epic proportions.

Jonathan DeHart
Professor Zhang’s Illegal Hanging Villa of Beijing
Credit: Wikicommons

In Beijing, atop the 26-story Park View building, a legend is in the making. An eccentric medicine practitioner called Professor Zhang (real name: Zhang Biqing) by his very annoyed neighbors is singlehandedly erecting a villa on the roof of the building.

As the South China Morning Post notes, Professor Zhang’s creation makes the illegally wrought wine cellar of Henry Tang and his wife Lisa Kuo Yu-chin look like child’s play as far as illicit construction projects go.

But this isn’t just any villa. The structure – sans building permit – contains fake rocks and is even flanked by a yard of sorts, with trees and grass growing around it. It resembles an artificial building, which looks like it could simply spill over the roofline at any moment. The structure adds an additional two stories to the building. Photos of Zhang’s work can be seen here in all of its glory.

Professor Zhang’s creation is located in Beijing’s prestigious Haidian district, which is replete with government buildings and universities. Amazingly, in a testament to lax building laws – or at least a complete lack of enforcement – the mysterious DIY architect has gone about erecting his dream home for six years.

Amid leaky ceilings, ruckus from construction machinery and well justified fears of structural damage, residents have complained to the building management company, local officials and the police – to no avail. If anything, the complaints only made Professor Zhang even bolder.

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"Since I dare to live here, I am not worried about complaints,” the professor told Beijing Morning News. “Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”

Yet, Zhang is not alone. It seems there are other rooftop builders of note, including one 590-square-meter rooftop dwelling seen making the rounds online in 2011. This one came with a blueprint for a three-story structure with more than a dozen rooms. It was up for sale for 15 million yuan.

But Professor Zhang’s tops them all. “Even the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are overshadowed by this hanging villa in Beijing,” wrote one Weibo user.

While Zhang has been advised to dismantle his rooftop home, the Global Times said that authorities are bewildered about what to do about his ambitious project.

As The Independent notes, this all points to a larger trend in China in which wealthier landowners “move their fences to claim public space, adding extensions to the side of buildings, and even putting extra floors (and trees) on top of their homes.”

None of these reports bode well in a nation where building regulations are as dubious as building quality. Let’s pause for a moment and recall the collapse of an entire apartment structure in Shanghai in 2009 – “nearly intact”