In 2009, plans were made to create a new town between the two industrial cities of Shenyang and Fushun in the northeast of China. Shenfu New Town, as it was called, would handle the overflow from the two cities, which had been growing rapidly during the preceding decade.
To achieve its vision of “a place where people and nature live in harmony together,” local authorities brought in the entertainment designer Gary Goddard and his Californian-based firm, the Goddard Group, to develop a section of the new city. As well as developing plans for housing, retail, and entertainment sectors around the planned parks and lakes, Goddard came up with an ambitious and rather leftfield idea: A massive steel ring.
Due to the small local population of Shenfu New Town (which even in 2015 remained pretty much a ghost town), not all of the plans came to fruition. But local authorities were somehow convinced by the idea of a massive steel ring, and believed their new city needed a sightseeing landmark to attract tourists. So they promptly gave Goddard the green light.
Completed in 2012, the Ring of Life rose up from the lakeside, dwarfing nearby tower blocks, many of which remained unfinished or unoccupied. Despite questions and criticisms regarding the utility of such a construction, especially at an estimated cost of $16 million U.S. dollars, the Ring of Life immediately caught the world’s attention. And it’s easy to see why.
The steel ring is 515 feet tall and weighs about 3,000 tons. Its surface is embedded with around 12,000 LED lights, which allow the ring to be lit up at night in various colors. The original design incorporated a bungee jumping platform at the top, but it was deemed too high for bungee jumpers. There is, however, an observation deck at the top of the ring, accessible by a series of four elevators.
The internet, meanwhile, had a field day with the newly unveiled Ring of Life. Some more sober-minded commentators noted similarities with the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The rest, well, they generally surmised that the structure was in fact a Stargate or portal of some kind, and got busy Photoshopping all kinds of things going in and out of the ring, including spaceships and giant cats.