LUXURYCULTURE.COM - China's new horizon


Stunning structures make bold footprints in China's changing landscape.

China's accession to the World
Trade Organization and the lifting
of trade quota restrictions in 2005 had
reverberations around the world, none
more so than in design and
architecture. While China's tarnished
design image was initially met with
hostility, the industry is now taking a
different tack, working with Chinese
manufacturers to improve not only the
country's design offering, but its
architecture too.
Wei Wei Shannon is co-founder of
People's Architecture, a multi-
disciplinary organization that provides a
forum for ideas and research with the
aim of creating a better understanding
of China as it goes through this
incredible period of transition. She
equates China with its well-known
moniker: "For the past 100 years China
has been very low key, or like a
'sleeping dragon'. For a long time it
has been known that China will
become strong again."
As the country awakens and the
economy strengthens, plans are
underway for China's coming-out
party: the 2008 Olympics. Western
architects, such as Rem Koolhaas,
Steven Holl and Hertzog & de Meuron
– the Swiss-based practice behind
Beijing's new Olympic Stadium – are
racing to finish before the lighting of
the Olympic torch. Joining forces with
local planners, construction firms and
young local architects, these world-
ranking starchitects will create world-
class wonders that aim to inspire and
to install an aesthetic benchmark for
future architects of the region, as well
as offering the much needed know-
how of the West. While some bemoan
the fact that the country's biggest
event will take place in the stadium
designed by Western architects, Wei
Wei Shannon believes that there is a
bigger picture. "First of all, the
competition was an international one
where the winner was based on design
not nationality. It was not known which
submissions were Western." She adds,
"China is a country with a long and
diverse history, but it is also very
insular; there's inside China, and
there's the outside world. There's a
repeat pattern throughout history;
China opens its doors to the outside,
takes in its influences and knowledge,
and then violently closes its doors.
At the moment, architecture is merely
a manifestation of that process."
The country's most talented architects
are already advancing at an astonishing
rate, creating modern monuments as it
tries to shed its traditional Imperial
The country has slowly been
undergoing change since the Reform
era of the late 1970s and Wei Wei
believes that this openness to Western
architectural influence is also part of
the transformation. "Buildings like
Hertzog & de Meuron's National
Stadium, known as the 'bird's nest',
could only be built in China mostly
because of practical reasons. Labor is
available and affordable! For instance,
a lot of the steel is individually crafted
by hand. It is a unique opportunity for
the architect, because it is a time to
build something that could never, and
has never, be built anywhere else in
the world. This is such a special time
for architects." China is the new land of
opportunity and these are its modern-
day pioneers.

Beijing Capital International Airport
Foster and Partners' winning design for Beijing's new airport terminal is due for completion in late
2007. This superlative addition to China's busiest airport is expected to serve up to 60 million
passengers a year by 2015.

Digital Beijing
Designed by Urbanus and Studio Pei-zhu, two of the leading forces among China's
burgeoning group of young design talents, and developed by Urbanus' former founder,
Pei-zhu, Digital Beijing will serve as the 2008 Olympic Games' data center and media
headquarters, with a virtual museum and exhibition spaces open to the public.
The 96,000 m2building pays homage to the importance of digital technology within
architecture and art, with digital displays often projected onto the bar code façade of the
building's exterior and decorative displays of digital data embellishing spaces within.

National Grand Theater of China, Beijing
Spanning up to 213 meters, the stunning super ellipsoid shell of the Beijing National Grand Theater
emerges from its surrounding lake with other-worldly allure, attracting the city's patrons to Beijing's
new cultural hub. "The Beijing National Grand Theater should be part of the fabric of the city, a
theater in the city, a new district of spectacles and dreams open to one and all," says French
architect Paul Andreu. Located near Tiananmen square, this striking structure stands out amid
China's ancient buildings, marking a new era for China.
Encased in a glass/titanium shell, its countless facets attract natural light from outside, while
emitting light from inside during evening performances that take place within the three performance
auditoriums and gallery spaces.

Central Chinese Television
CCTV, Beijing
Standing 230 meters high, Rem Koolhaas and
Ole Scheeren's towering TV station and
headquarters for Central Chinese Television
(CCTV) rethinks the classic skyscraper that
Koolhaas so vocally derides. This awe-inspiring
architectural accomplishment comprises two
leaning towers linked by a bridge that creates an
optical illusion. The first tower will house CCTV's
administrative offices, research and education
departments, while the second – Television
Cultural Centre (TVCC) – is dedicated to the
company's broadcast facilities, including the
international broadcasting centre for the 2008
Olympic Games.
The bridge at the apex of the colossal copula will
house a magnificent managerial penthouse, with
the ground level dedicated to public facilities,
such as a 1,500-seat theater, digital cinemas
and exhibition areas.

Dongtan Eco City, Shanghai
China's environmental track record may not be the
best, but initiatives such as Dongtan Eco City – the
world's first fully sustainable city – are setting
impressive new standards for even the greenest
governments. Arup's masterplan for the Shanghai
Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) is a city of
three villages, situated on China's third largest
island, the first of which is due for completion by
2010. The remainder of this impressive plan is
projected for 2040.
Built on the Dongtan Wetlands, a valuable haven for
migrating birds, the constructed area will cover only
30 per cent of the site; the remainder will undergo
preservation, restoring it to its original wetland state.
Wind generated energy and bio-fuels will supply the
city with resources, and composting will replace the
hazardous landfills that scar cities. Dongtan signals
significant steps in China's changing face.

Shanghai World Financial
Center, Shanghai
Also slated for completion by 2008, the colossal
492-meter-high Shanghai World Financial Center
will dominate the Shanghai skyline, as well as
breaking records as the world's highest building.
The 101-storey superstructure will offer unrivalled
views of Shanghai.
For architects Kohn Pedersen Fox, the biggest
challenge was creating a structure that could
withstand high winds at such a high altitude; the
answer? A rectangular cutout at the apex of the
structure, which houses a bridge observation
deck at the summit. The dynamic development
will also boast a luxury hotel and restaurant and
an additional 700 m2public observation deck at
the 94th floor.

Dafen Art Museum
The small village of Dafen in Shenzhen is the art capital of China, accounting for an incredible
60 per cent of the world market of oil painting reproductions. The recently completed Dafen Art
Museum, designed by Urbanus, is more than a traditional art space to showcase the region's
wares. The 17,000 m2site is a breeding ground for contemporary artists, incorporating
commercial retail spaces and workshops within the unique space. Going beyond the structure,
Dafen Art Museum brings a beating heart to its flourishing art community.

Qing Song Wai Garden, Qingpu, Shanghai
Following the Eastern ethos of creating a harmonious relationship with our surroundings
and following the natural form of nature, rather than a set architectural style, Scenic
architecture's beauteous 2005 project, Qing Song Wai Garden, emphasizes the simple
beauty of China's most abundant resource – bamboo.

Related Articles

NYC's New Starchitect Skyline
China's Art Attack