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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 Spivonious on 7/14/2008 11:22:14 AM , Rating: 2
A lot can change in 20 years.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 7/14/2008 12:30:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, just ask the people Tibet or Taiwan


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Spivonious on 7/14/2008 12:58:36 PM , Rating: 4
The U.S. didn't let Virginia be free when it wanted to; they even fought a war over it.

Why should China act differently?


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 7/14/2008 6:07:48 PM , Rating: 3
The way I understand it... Neither area ever accepted China as their ruler or that they were part of China (forced to be ruled by is not accepting). Virginia was part of the original 13 that signed up for the program and help create the USA. I'm sure if I wrong on them not accepting that they are part of China, I will be corrected. :)


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Ringold on 7/15/2008 3:09:51 AM , Rating: 1
Taiwan was China. The KMT ruled China, and fought the communist uprising. The communists pushed the ruling government's forces back until all they had left was Taiwan. In a sense, Communist China is an entirely new country, the government that survived in Taiwan was the original China.

As for Virginia, previous to the Civil War each state was thought to have some degree of sovereignty. In other words, federal regulations, laws, etc, had to be limited in scope. Gradually, the North became more liberal (big surprise) while the South held the same values as the founding fathers. We didn't have a unified standing federal army at that time, just state militias for the most part, so it was quite easy for the south to collectively say "To hell with this liberal nonsense," and start pressing for liberty.

Northern liberals had more men and more resources to throw in to the meat grinder. Nothing else, ultimately, really matters, so, you know how that story ends.

In fact, if you think about it, the situation between Taiwan and China is almost identical to what would be the case if some of the South had prevailed in the Civil War. China just hasn't been able to finish the job.


RE: world's most inspired architecture
By masher2 (blog) on 7/15/2008 9:27:18 AM , Rating: 2
> "Northern liberals had more men and more resources to throw in to the meat grinder. Nothing else, ultimately, really matters"

According to some historians, the extra men that swung the tide weren't even notherners, butr rather recent German immigrants, fleeing their failed liberal revolution of 1848.


By Ringold on 7/15/2008 3:12:08 PM , Rating: 2
I hadn't heard that, but no surprise. The North was full of poor immigrants, and the well-off never had to worry about military service, not if they had a little cash and someone (like a poor immigrant) to go in their stead.


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