At some point, you’ve dreamed of designing your perfect home. Most likely, your vision included some surprises, like a zany, one-of-a-kind contraption that would make your house the talk of the town. One man in China had the same desire—but he might have gone a bit too far.

A Beijing doctor named Zhang Biqing was determined to build the home of his dreams. While China may be known for its unique architectural structures, Zhang’s completed vision managed to stand out more than usual—and anger his neighbors—for a pretty obvious reason.

By 2013, a self-proclaimed “doctor” named Zhang Biqing of Beijing, China, had amassed a fortune thanks to his chain of traditional Chinese medicine clinics and in-home acupuncture sessions. Naturally, he set aside the equivalent of $4 million towards his dream home.

Zhang bought the very top floor of a rather plain skyscraper—the 26th floor, to be exact. At first, there was nothing spectacular about it. It was just “a small attic when he bought it,” one resident said. But Zhang had big plans for the space.

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Over a period of six years, Zhang’s team of builders worked, largely at night, to renovate the penthouse apartment. Piece by piece, they carried materials—including rocks, trees, and bushes—to the top floor. They seemed to be building something unusual…

Shanghai Daily News

See, Zhang’s dream home wasn’t going to be some swanky penthouse with gold floors and crystal-rimmed bathtubs. Rather, he was determined to fashion a mountain villa for himself that would be nestled into the rooftop of the Chinese skyscraper.

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But while it might’ve looked like a retreat of solitude for an early-millennia monk, Zhang’s villa was a bit more rambunctious. There, he partied hard, and perhaps no room in his retreat saw more attention than the karaoke parlor—which caused some problems.

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Residents of the building lived in a state of constant agony. “They’ve been renovating for years,” one resident, who just wanted peace and quiet, said. “They normally do it at night. [Zhang] was very arrogant. He couldn’t care less about my complaints.”

Shanghai Daily News

Other building residents, haunted by the volume of Zhang’s late-night construction and karaoke parties, cut their losses and moved away. Another man confronted Zhang in person—and ended up getting physically assaulted for his troubles.

Daily Mail

When confronted by the property management, Zhang said: “I’m not afraid of the complaints … you can’t stop famous people from singing when they come here.” But karaoke wasn’t the only hardship his villa inflicted on the residents.

The 8,000-square-foot rooftop villa that was built into the side of an artificial mountain wasn’t exactly a lightweight dwelling. Because of this, the steel beams and heavy stones Zhang used put some serious stress on the rest of the building.

Thanks to the added weight, many walls in the building cracked and water pipes burst. Residents, understandably, feared the skyscraper was one more late-night karaoke party away from totally collapsing. Could anyone thwart Zhang and his obscene structure?

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Apparently, yes. Shortly after the construction of his mountain villa was finished, Zhang encountered another problem: it wasn’t legal. Indeed, in building his dream home, the medicine magnate never bothered to secure the proper permits!

Soon enough, building code enforcement officials paid a visit to Zhang, but he didn’t answer the door for them. That complicated the inspectors’ job in a hopelessly bureaucratic way.

Daily Mail

“If we can’t calculate the scope of this illegal construction,” the deputy head of the Purple Bamboo Park urban management district said, “we can’t issue a notice requiring him to dismantle it.” Had Zhang managed to squeeze his way out of his troublesome situation?

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Sick of Zhang constantly ducking and avoiding them, the building code enforcers slapped a notice on his door. It explained to the doctor that he had 15 days to prove his structure was safe—or else he’d be forced to tear it down.

Xiaoqing Pi / The Wall Street Journal

Meanwhile, the media and local residents applied pressure to convince Zhang to tear it down. Locals hung a red banner outside the building that roughly read, “We resolutely support the large media outlets in revealing this residential compound’s illegal structures.”

Amazingly, Zhang defended his villa, which he refused to call his home; rather, he referred to it as “an ornamental garden” (likely to net more lax legal constraints). The structure, he argued, had no permanent concrete attachments, and therefore, it was safe.

Eventually, Zhang, perhaps persuaded by unbearable public and media pressure at his door, offered a little concession to detractors. “Now I realize it was a huge mistake,” he told CCTV. Would his mountain villa—er, ornamental garden—survive?

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In the end, authorities demanded that Zhang remove his villa from the top of the Beijing skyscraper. He was given just 25 days to begin tearing down his rooftop home, and, mercifully, he complied.

Still, for as much trouble as his home caused, some residents of the community were sorry to see it go. As one supporter put it, “It really is a marvelous villa, atmospheric and luxurious.”

It was a shame that Zhang’s dream home caused such a stir. His mountain villa truly was a work of art in an otherwise concrete jungle. If he had just acquired the proper permits—and exercised a little civility with his neighbors—perhaps it would’ve worked out!

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Despite how unique this rooftop villa was, the residents of the building were lucky that Zhang never got the required permits. Who knows what kind of problems the penthouse would have caused if it stayed?

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