Top 10 Look-Alike Buildings, Copy-Paste

News of the illegal copying of a Zaha Hadid design in Beijing nearly went viral last week when de Spiegelbroke the story of “pirate architects” in Chongqing that were constructing a copy of ZHA’s original design. The commentary that surrounded the controversy generally agreed that the “copycat architecture” was nothing new in contemporary Chinese building culture, nor out of step with China’s general contraband market. After all, if you can clone an IKEA, why not a starchitect’s signature building?

Yet, the argument goes beyond that. By its nature—namely, its scale and ubiquity—architecture lends itself to copying. It may be easy to conceal the blueprints of a building, but it’s much more difficult to hide that same building once it’s completed. The best architects know that they can never be immune to precedent, and that they should use and build on the architecture of the past. As Le Corbusier said, “Good architects borrow, but great architects steal.”

Not that we’re advocating outright counterfeitism. On the contrary, sometimes architects spend a little too much time looking at other architecture for inspiration, as these next buildings show.


Hanoi Museum (2009)
Hanoi, Vietnam
Designed by gmp – von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects

China Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 (2009-10/now dismantled)
Shanghai, China
Designed by He Jingtang


Jansen Campus (2012)
Obierret, Switzerland
Designed by Davide Macullo Architects

Denver Art Museum (2006)
Denver, Colorado
Designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind


Cube Tube (2009)
Jinhua, China
Designed by SAKO Architects

Zollverein School of Management & Design (2006)
Essen, Germany
Designed by SANAA


Photo: Tim Griffin

Mission Bay Block 27 Parking Structure (2009)
San Francisco, California
Designed by WRNS Studio

León Concert Hall (2002)
León, Spain
Designed by Mansilla+Tuñón


Galleri Örsta (2010)
Kumla, Sweden
Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune

EMÜ Sports Hall (2010)
Tartu, Estonia
Designed by SALTO


Museum of Liverpool (2011)
Liverpool, UK
Designed by 3XN/AEW

Photo: Iwan Baan

MAXXI–National Museum of 21st Century Arts (2009)
Rome, Italy
Designed by Zaha Hadid


Photo: Vulkers Fotografie

ROC Mondriaan LAAK II (2011)
Den Haag, The Netherlands
Designed by LIAG

Photo via

MIT Simmons Hall (2002)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Designed by Steven Holl Architects


Tokyo Apartment (2010)
Tokyo, Japan
Designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects

VitraHaus (2010)
Weil am Rhein, Germany
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron


Torre Agbar (2004)
Barcelona, Spain
Designed by Jean Nouvel 

Swiss Re HQ, aka “The Gherkin” (2003)
London, UK
Designed by Foster + Parners


The Shard in 2011; Photo via The Guardian

The Shard (2012)
London, UK
Designed by Renzo Piano

Photo via Koryo Tours

Ryugyong Hotel (began construction in 1987, to be completed in 2013-2014)
Pyongyang, North Korea
Designed by ???


Photo via flickr user evan.chakroff

Contemporary Arts Center (2003)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Designed by Zaha Hadid 

Photo: Mark Hackett

Ulster Museum (1962)
Belfast, UK
Designed by Francis Pym

A Copy Too Illegal To Stand

Photo: CAIP

“Ronchamp”, complete with “Open Hand” structure (demolished in 2008)
Zhengzhou, China
Designed by ???

Notre Dame du Haut de Ronchamp (1954)
Ronchamp, France
Designed by Le Corbusier


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