Last year, I was honoured to show around a professional architect, Paul, from USA, and he is my guest blogger today. What better person to describe some of the highlights of Beijing's new skyline! I would be happy to arrange an architectural tour to show them to you also.
Beijing National Stadium (Bird's Nest)
Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with Ai Weiwei, the tangled
web of steel mesh was inspired by pottery to form a container
for 91,000 spectators. Sure, the stadium went way beyond budget, but this is a once-
in-a-lifetime project that could never again be replicated, just like the other
world wonder to the north, The Great Wall, or the Great Pyramids
in Giza. The reflective steel finish bounces the Beijing atmosphere,
be it smoggy gray or dusky blue. At night, the stadium turns into
a sculptural lantern that sits well against the plaza that bustles with locals
flying kites, mingling, or simply promenading around what surely hands-down
is the most spectacular building of the 21st century.
is a Post-Constructivist take on the skyscraper. It has become
an iconic fixture in the Beijing skyline even while it was under construction
that it has been dubbed "underpants" due to the shape, by the locals. The
engineering was made intricate in that two separate buildings had to be
weld together to form one structure at a particular temperature, and hence time, to minimize
the effects of differential expansions of steel. The future of the burned annex remains to be seen, however.
Go to the Park Hyatt next door for the best view of the CCTV, and the
Central Business District for that matter.
Beijing National Aquatics Center
for the Beijing Olympics. Designed by PTW Architects from Australia, the slice of
oversized water bubbles glows within and without.
by New York architect Steven Holl, the multi-use project features apartment
units, a hotel, retail spaces, offices, a movie theatre, and floating pools.
The 20-storey-plus 8 towers are reminiscent of the Corbusian idealized urbanism,
but humanized to foster people interaction. A pleasant surprise indeed when one
walks around the public plazas to notice how the elements of water and earth are
incorporated into what could have turned into a sterile conglomeration of apartment
National Theatre for the Performing Arts
The titanium and glass structure sits above a man-made lake, thus giving the
appearance of 'an egg' when viewed with the reflection. Designed by Frenchman
Paul Andreu, the theatre was subsequently re-evaluated for safety upon completion
after the collapse of an airport terminal building in Charles de Gaulle Airport, also
designed by Andreu. Visitors enter a submerged entry hall that is dappled by
water reflection from the pond above. The three main performance spaces are the
Opera, Theatre, and Music Halls, that are distinct from the other. The stairs and
escalators that connect the tiered halls create a complex set of circulation of a
modern glass box under a breathtaking roof cantilever. The focus of the collection
are cultural relics, specifically those found in Beijing. The interior has a restraint
feel to it that allows the visitor to unearth, at their own pace, through the different
collections of chinaware, calligraphy, jade, bronze, and sculpture. From the upper
floors, one can get a great view of the modernized old town.
The Village at Sanlitun
the graphic appeal may be more Tokyo than Beijing (Kengo Kuma was, after all,
the architect), the open-air layout recalls the Beijing night-markets. International
retail brand names and eateries can be found here including Adidas, Uniqlo, Puma,
Nike, and Starbucks.
The Opposite House
have its own minimalist boutique hotel so Beijing has The Opposite House. The interiors
are spacious, lofty, and wallpaper*-worthy. The hotel mixes and matches modern
materials such as glass and steel with traditional wood and tile to great effect.
There is no mistaking who or what the center of attention will be in this
6000 square meter venue. It has all the signature Starck elements such
as elongated tables, gazing artworks, mismatched chairs, etched glass countertops,
and furniture styled from many '-isms'. The decor may be a bit hyper to match
the hyper-inflated prices of the menu, but nothing that a few drinks won't
fix to tone everything down.
Commune by The Great Wall
Great Wall. 12 Asian architects were each given a villa to design in this sprawling
complex, and the result is a clash of restrained design egos. While each villa maintains
some relationship with the surrounding mountains and the Great Wall, the collection
of buildings seen as a whole, reinforces the notion of architects designing on a whim.
The repertoire of building materials is exhausted when one sees a bamboo house here,
and a rammed earth structure there. Granted, the interior spaces are beautiful, and
worthy of consideration for weekend getaways. The Peacock Room and the bathrooms
at the Club House alone are worth a visit.