Zaha Hadid has taken a break from her Glamour Woman of the Year world tour to, well, out-build her own work: just as the architect's Wangjing SOHO complex is rising in Beijing, a rip-off of the project, called Meiquan 22nd Century, is rising in Chongqing. Team Zaha—in particular the SOHO China developers behind the three elliptical, jelly bean-like structures—is none too pleased that the design has been copied and might even win a lawsuit if that's where this is headed, but one Shanghai lawyer interviewed by Spiegel points out that "even if the judge rules in favor of SOHO, the court will not force the defendant to pull the building down." Meanwhile, Meiquan 22nd Century developer Chongqing Meiquan says they "Never meant to copy, only want to surpass." (Oh, snap!) At this point, both structures are proceeding as planned, and now it's just no-holds-barred race to see which one finishes first.
China certainly has built and proposed its fair share of ambitious pie-in-the-sky architecture—manmade car-free cities, 515-foot-tall rings, the world's future tallest building—but the country also has a long romance with ripping off other peoples' work. Last year, a carbon copy of Ikea cropped up in Kunming, complete with blue-and-yellow branding, room vignettes, and little pencils that allowed customers to note their selections. Also last year, the country announced plans to build an exact replica of Hallstatt, a lakeside UNESCO World Heritage site in central Austria. Included: details for buildings, doorknobs, statues, and even a Catholic church. So while SOHO China has "issued an open appeal for help in combatting this massive, open counterfeiting operation," as Spiegel puts it, the organization's billionaire head admits, ever so wistfully, "Everyone says that China is a great copycat country, and that it can copy anything." Next up: Naomi Campbell's spaceship house?