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Owner Removing Illegal Rooftop Mountain

Friday, August 16, 2013

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A man-made mountain dwelling, perched on top of a high-rise apartment building in Beijing, has been deemed illegal and ordered to be removed, causing neighbors to cheer after several years of jeers.

The bizarre structure was constructed on a two-story penthouse at the top of the 26-story apartment building at the Renji Shanzhuang residential compound in the Park View area of Beijing's Haidian district. The rocky villa featured fake rocks and real trees and grass.

Now the villa's builder and owner, Zhang Biqing, has started dismantling the illegal rooftop structure, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday (Aug. 15).

Beijing rooftop mountain
Photos: Xinhua / Luo Xiaguang

A Beijing man has been ordered to tear down his rooftop mountain dwelling, which took him six years to build.

Local media identified Zhang as a wealthy traditional Chinese medicine practitioner with an acupuncture chain called Qijing Tang, as well as a former member of a district People's Political Consultative Conference. He reportedly would often identify himself as "Professor Zhang."

(However, media reports say that people are taking to the Internet to speculate that Zhang's medicinal claims may be phony, leading Beijing authorities to launch an investigation into his company.)

6 Years of Complaints

Chengguan officials, Beijing's urban management bureau, put a protective fence around the building to protect nearby foot and vehicle traffic from falling debris and provided guidance on site to make sure the structure remained sound and to prevent water and electricity from leaking, according to Xinhua.

On Monday (Aug. 12), officials of Haidian District posted a notice on Zhang's door giving him 15 days to demolish the structure, or else they would do it themselves.

Although neighbors have complained to officials since the construction started in 2007, the man-made mountain terrace didn't receive much attention until Monday, when photos of the building started receiving viral Internet attention.

"I used to worry that the house might be too much but I never expected this much attention," Zhang is reported to have told The Beijing News.

When local newspaper Beijing Morning News asked Zhang about the noise complaints, he responded, "Since I dare to live here, I am not worried about complaints. Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?"

By Tuesday, Zhang fessed up to illegally constructing "a small sunlight room on the rooftop, and gradually expanded it with rocks, trees and artificial landscapes that take up some 800 square meters," numerous media sources reported.

Zhang's neighbors said they often feared the building's integrity was in jeopardy as the rocky structure was being built.

"We have been trying to reach him regarding the issue since 2008, but failed regardless of whether we knocked on the door or sent notices repeatedly," Dai Jun, a press officer for the Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau of Haidan District, told the Global Times.

Love Thy Neighbor

Zhang has reportedly said that the "villa" is really a grape trellis that he built for vegetation to act as a thermal insulator from the summer heat. He added that the "rocks" were made from a light-weight material to enclose chimneys that were blowing unpleasant odors into his apartment. The bonsai trees were simply to make it "look good."

Residents living on the floors below Zhang's apartment said the six-year construction has caused gas and water leaks.

"A lot of people have moved out from the top floors," Zhang Li, who lives in an apartment on the floor below the mountain penthouse, told CNN. "They were afraid. They sold their apartments and got out."

Zhang Li added, "It's very noisy and they are always bringing rocks and things up the elevator. It's definitely not safe. With all those boulders up there, what would happen if there was an earthquake?"

Allegedly, some of the neighbors that complained were met with harrassment and threats from Zhang. Local newspapers reported that he even beat up a 77-year-old man on several occasions until he finally moved, the South China Morning Post stated.

Several other people that CNN spoke with said Zhang's illegal construction was probably ignored by officials because of his ties to influential people. They said that building such a structure doesn't just require money, but also the right connections.

On Wednesday, a group of residents hung a red banner at the apartment complex that read: "We resolutely support the large media outlets in revealing this residential compound's illegal structure."


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building codes

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