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Medieval World Wonder to Gleam Again

Friday, April 10, 2015

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A project to reconstruct one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages is underway in China.

Built in 1402-1424 AD, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing was a 260-foot pagoda temple with a 95-foot base constructed of white porcelain bricks.

Porcelain was reportedly used to build the tower so that it would illuminate in the sun. At night, as many as 140 lamps were hung from the building to light the tower, according to historians.

Porcelain Tower
Johan Nieuhof (1665)

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing only exists in illustrations and paintings. However, a project is underway to reconstruct the medieval temple.

A range of decorative elements were said to have been etched into the sides of the tower and archways.

The nine-story icon stood for more than four centuries, welcoming visitors from around the globe. However, in the 19th century, the tower was struck by a bolt of lightning and then mostly destroyed under the Taiping Rebellion.

Reviving a Cultural Icon

The current construction project, known as the Nanjing Porcelain Tower Relics Park, is led by the Nanjing municipal government. The project seeks to transform the original site into a cultural attraction for the city.

In 2010, a wealthy Chinese housing developer donated 1 billion Yuan ($156 million USD) to help fund the project.

At the time of the donation, the project was estimated to be completed by 2014. Up-to-date estimates on the project timeline were not immediately available Thursday (April 9) morning.

Coatings Work

Color experts from the Amsterdam-based coating company AkzoNobel have recently been involved in the historic project.

According to the company, the experts have selected a light yellow paint color for upcoming painting work on the temple’s porcelain walls.

arched doorway
Gary Lee Todd / CC-by-SA

Remains of the Porcelain Tower's original arched doorway were pieced together and put on display at the Nanjing Musuem.

“This color reflects the building's heritage,” the company said in a release.

In addition, nearly 20,000 kilograms (44,092 pounds) of an acrylate, copolymer-based waterborne texture paint was used to coat 8,000 square meters of porcelain walls on the structure, according to the company.

The project is one of the main pillars of AkzoNobel’s Human Cities initiative, which aims to regenerate and re-energize cities worldwide.


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Architectural history; Building materials; Color; Color selection; Historic Structures

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/10/2015, 8:22 AM)

Why would you paint porcelain with a temporary coating when you can fire it with a permanent glaze?

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