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The 'Water Cube': The National Aquatics Center

The facade of the Water Cube can also be highlit and animated

The 'Birds Nest': Beijing National Stadium

China Central TV Headquarters

The National Center for Performing Arts. Called a "floating pearl" by its admirers, its also been criticized as resembling a "fried egg".
Olympic Pride Transforms City, Projects advance architecture to new levels.

In less than a decade, Beijing has transformed itself from a city of gloomy, uninspired concrete cubes to a site containing some of the world's most inspired architecture. While China's new prosperity plays a part, the primary impetus is this year's Olympic Games which are due to start next month in the city. A look at some of the major projects follows.

The surreal "Water Cube", a.k.a. the National Aquatics Center, is covered with sheets of translucent plastic bubbles, which invoke images of a building constructed entirely from water. The bubbles also transmit light and absorb heat, cutting energy usage. The Center is the world's largest polymer-clad building, and will be one of the primary venues during the upcoming Olympics.

The "Bird Nest" is the friendly name for Beijing National Stadium, a 91,000-seat venue with an eye-popping space age design that contains 36 kilometers of unwrapped steel supports. Built for $430M, the stadium will also be one of the Olympics’ primary venues.  It is claimed that as many as 10 people died during the construction of the Stadium.

The hypermodern National Center for the Performing Arts, a gigantic $400 million titanium-and-glass flying saucer, floats like a pearl on its surrounding pool of water. To complete the image, an underwater tunnel provides entry. The Center's lush interior is said to house the most technologically advanced acoustics and mechanical wizardry of any concert hall in the world. The water enclosing the building also acts as thermal mass, to mediate the temperature inside.

There's the China Central TV (CCTV) Headquarters, a massive Escher-like structure that strains the boundaries of what it means to be called a skyscraper. The building's shape is so complex, that computational tools to validate its design didn't exist a decade ago. CCTV Tower's 4.1 million square feet of floor space makes it the second largest office building in the world, after the Pentagon.  The design, which includes a massive unsupported segment, will never be repeated, according to some architectural experts.

Greenpix, a multistory video display wall, is being called a "zero energy video art installation". Built on the wall of a large seafood restaurant, the solar-powered installation will display specially-commissioned videos by renowned artists.

Finally, Beijing has also completed an addition onto its airport: Terminal Three. The two-mile long structure is not only the world's largest airport terminal; it's one of the world's largest enclosed spaces. Built at a cost of $3.5 billion, it has over 100 gates, and covers some 9 million square feet spread over five above-ground and two underground floors. The roof of the terminal is punctuated by raised triangular skylights, meant to evoke the scales of a Chinese dragon.

Beijing is also constructing the world's largest Ferris wheel, in Chaoyang Park.



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RE: world's most inspired architecture
By FITCamaro on 7/14/2008 9:53:02 AM , Rating: 5
Your tax dollars at work. You can thank nuts like Nancy Pelosi and other liberals for that crap.

Prisoners should get bread, water, a hard bunk, and a roof. No TV, no exercise equipment, no games, no free education (they should've gone when they were a kid), etc. Prison is not supposed to be enjoyable. Prison is not supposed to be an opportunity. It's supposed to be a hell hole that no one wants to go to.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By phatboye on 7/14/2008 10:39:18 AM , Rating: 5
I'll agree with you on the bread and water for food hell I think they should put all prisoners to work breaking rocks or making license plates or something for the government to offset the amount of my tax dollars that is gone into the prison system.

But I disagree with you on not educating prisoners. I whole heartedly support educating them if they desire to be educated. Part of the reason why some of the people are in jail (not all of them) for crimes like robbery or selling drugs is because they felt as if doing so was the only way for them to survive. By educating these guys you are giving them a chance that when they are released from jail and re-introduced to society they will have a legal way of surviving financially and thus maybe deter some former inmates from returning back into the prison system.

Yes it does suck that someone who breaks the law has an easier time getting an education than a normal law abiding citizen. Maybe we should send an angry letter to our government officials and tell them to bring out troops home and stop spending our hard earned tax dollar on Iraq and invest more in our country's educational system.


By ebakke on 7/14/2008 10:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
There's far more wrong with our education system than a lack of funding. And much could be improved with the current funding levels. One core problem lies in the attitudes of students/parents, and a complete lack of authority given to teachers.

As far as higher education goes... holy crap, enough money is being spent! Higher education doesn't have poor sales or project delays that require corporations to trim the fat, and cut excess jobs every few years. They hire more people to do the same amount of work. We need our public colleges/universities to get back to educating.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By MozeeToby on 7/14/2008 11:12:19 AM , Rating: 3
That all depends on what you believe the purpose of prison is. There are basically two schools of thought: Prison as a punishment/deterent or prison as rehabilitation.

Personally, I don't think there's a problem with either system, the problem is not committing to one or the other. Many countries has prison systems designed from the ground up to rehabilitate prisoners and make them into full members of society; and many of those programs are successful. Other nation's prison systems are built from the ground up to punish and deter crime and they are also successful.

Only in the US, UK, and a few other countries do we try to combine the two aspects of prison; leading to a prison that is too comfortable to punish effectively and not proactive enough to actually reintegrate criminals.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By phatboye on 7/14/2008 11:24:17 AM , Rating: 2
I can definitely agree with you that prisons are too comfortable (not that I'd ever want to live like that). No way in hell should they be allowed to sit on their asses and watch TV 23 hours out of the day, they need to be working. Either a hard labor type of job or being educated &rehabilitated at a very minimum 12 hours a day.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By FITCamaro on 7/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: world's most inspired architecture
By phatboye on 7/14/2008 1:27:49 PM , Rating: 3
Fine then what do you suppose that those prisoners do once they are released. The point of prison is not only to punish those who commit crimes but to make them better than they were before they went in. If you let them rot away in a jail cell and don't educate them while they are in jail they will just go back to the same violent behavior that they had before going in. At least if they receive an education while in jail they will have a better chance at getting a job and becoming law abating citizen.


By phatboye on 7/14/2008 1:31:07 PM , Rating: 2
*law abiding citizen*

Damnit no edit function.


By psychobriggsy on 7/15/2008 8:07:52 AM , Rating: 1
Prison is meant to rehabilitate as well as punish, so you should leave the educational material there.

And you'd give them bread? Bread's expensive! No, no, don't give them bread. Beans and lentils instead, and other cheap grains/beans/etc (and what they grow in the prison garden). No meat. Water only. Any TVs should be used to show educational material only. Gyms? If they want exercise then there are rocks to be broken.

Prison is already a deterrent to the vast majority of people. Just losing your freedom is enough for most. That leaves the people who are mentally impoverished committing the majority of crime that affects people (violence, theft, etc). It costs a lot of money to keep a prisoner in jail (less than it costs to put them on death row however), so any efforts made to get a prisoner to not commit a crime again in the future are worthwhile to save money.


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