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Cities yearn to distinguish themselves as places to visit and invest in. For some that means excavating a rich past or tapping valued qualities of landscape and geography. Others are fortunate enough to possess an iconic architectural symbol. For the upstart towns in the sprawling Pearl River Delta of southern China, identity often comes by way of local industries. Guzhen is the lighting capital of China and decided to build itself an appropriately mighty icon. The idea came from the chairman of the Guzhen Communist Party, Wu Renfu: We needed a tangible icon that spoke of Guzhen as much as the Eiffel Tower spoke of Paris, something that might also serve as a totem for the people, a reminder of the source of their livelihoods and prosperity. What could be better than the world’s biggest lamp? Scheduled for completion in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the $38 million Century Giant Lamp Tower will stretch 430,560 square feet over 48 floors. – words by Wu Wei & Thomas J. Campanella.

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