In 1912, German architects and engineers designed and built the Jinan Railway Station in Shandong, China. The station, the largest in Asia at the time, became well known among Chinese architects for its unique Baroque style and graceful lines, and for nearly a century, its tall bell tower and green dome were symbols of Jinan.
However, following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, xenophobia was rife in official propaganda, and the old station’s German gothic style soon became a target of Jinan officials. Xie Yutang, then deputy mayor, told local media that the building was a relic of imperialism. He said:
“It reminds me of the suppression Chinese people have suffered in history. The lofty green dome looks like the helmets of Hitler’s army.”
The demolition was strongly opposed by academics, who filed several petitions begging the authorities to spare the station. They argued that buildings such as Jinan Railway Station teach us about the history that happened before we were born, and promotes the respect for those who lived in different times. Architectural monuments, such as the station, also make a city unique in the world. In the end, all of their arguments were ignored, and the demolition went on as planned.
At the time of the station’s demolition, local photographer Jing Qiang said:
“Eventually, the workers raised their hammers and pounded the wall of the old railway station. I had tears in my eyes as I pressed the camera shutter. These distorted souls will regret their actions one day.”
On July 1, 1992 at precisely 8:05 am, the old railway station mechanical precision tower clock stopped ticking forever as the grand old station was eventually reduced to a pile of ruble. At the time, demolition crews were impressed by the quality of the building, which boasted stones of the highest quality and the strongest steel framework of any building in Asia.
In 2013, the city came to regret their decision to demolish the old Jinan Railway Station, and the Jinan government announced it’s reconstruction. But the move has attracted fierce criticism. One reason is its sheer expense, as the project will cost more than US$215 million dollars. Concerns have also been raised about the replacement’s authenticity, as no blueprints exist. All that remains are a few faded photographs.
At the time of the announcement, a local architectural professor commented:
“This is just stupidity on top of stupidity; the first stupidity was the demolition, whereas the second stupidity is to rebuild it.”
Translated by Chua, B.C.