Beijing: a metropolis straddling past and future | The Plan
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Beijing: a metropolis straddling past and future

Steven Holl Architects | Herzog & de Meuron | Kengo Kuma and Associates | OMA | GMP - Von Gerkan, Marg und Partner | MADA S.P.A.M. | Paul Andreu | Foster + Partners

Beijing: a metropolis straddling past and future
By Michael Webb -

The Beijing Olympics focused the world’s attention on a handful of headline buildings. Herzog & de Meuron’s National Stadium, Foster + Partners’ Airport Terminal 3, and OMA’s CCTV Headquarters are marvels of architecture and engineering, created in collaboration with Arup and the leading Chinese institutes of architecture and design. By demanding the best work at great speed, the authorities dazzled the world and enriched a city that has been almost completely rebuilt in the past fifteen years. These and other buildings symbolize the newly achieved wealth and self-confidence of a nation that has emerged from a century and a half of poverty, invasion, turmoil and oppression. And they demonstrate a sense of continuity with the past, as monuments that bear comparison with the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City.
To put this achievement in perspective, one should visit the Beijing Planning Center, just south of Tiananmen Square. A bronze wall relief shows the walled city as it was in 1949: the world’s best-preserved medieval metropolis. Over the next two decades it was ruthlessly modernized along Soviet lines.
All but a fragment of the city wall was demolished and replaced by a broad ring road; wide highways slashed through the inner city, factories were inserted into residential neighborhoods, and the open space at the center was transformed into the vast parade ground of Tiananmen - Beijing’s equivalent of Red Square in Moscow. During the Cultural Revolution there was even talk of replacing the Forbidden City with a government office complex, but poverty and isolation preserved much of the old urban fabric and cars were few. Twenty years ago, Beijing was still a low-rise city of government, industry, modest housing and few amenities. Its humble airport (likened by one critic to a Balkan bus station) was located far beyond the city bounds.
State-sponsored capitalism has proved far more dynamic and destructive, as one can see from the model...

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