Little-known architect built a towering legacy

2021-03-12 China Daily Editor:Mo Hong'e

Xiang, his granddaughter and wife at the East Lake Greenway in Wuhan in 2017. (CHINA DAILY)

Late designer who recreated historic landmark in Hubei capital remembered for contributions

In 1978, little-known architect Xiang Xinran was given the job opportunity of a lifetime when he was asked to reconstruct the historic Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Xiang, then 38, had graduated from Tsinghua University and worked at the Central-South Architectural Design Institute. He was asked to help a senior colleague draw up design sketches for a new tower to commemorate the original one, which no longer existed.

Xiang drew up an alternative plan to his colleague's based on how the tower would have looked during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

To his company's surprise, officials thought Xiang's design stood out from the pack of proposals they had received from leading architectural firms.

In a 2017 article published in CSADI's magazine, Xiang said it was the "blessing of his lifetime" but also carried "great pressure". At a coordination meeting before the construction work began, officials questioned Xiang on whether he was capable of finishing the task. He told them if he couldn't,"I will jump into the Yangtze River!"

Xiang, who went on to become one of the country's leading architects, died of stomach cancer last month age 81. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

His contributions to the tower, restoration of historic buildings, insistence on professionalism and enthusiasm and dedication to design, even in old age, inspired generations of architects, according to officials and former peers.

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