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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 JustTom on 7/14/2008 12:54:28 PM , Rating: 2
I remember such linear progressions for both the Soviet Union and Japan predicting that they will pass the United States in economic power. Neither happened.

While the growth of China is not something to be ignored it is extremely unlikely that it will continue to grow at the current rate. There are both the demographic problems associated with the 1 child per couple policy and the inherent contradictions of its current economic policies.

However, the US should certainly severly limit the number of growth restrictive regulations it currently has if for no other reason than wealth is a good thing.

RE: world's most inspired architecture
By masher2 on 7/14/2008 1:08:11 PM , Rating: 2
While your point is certainly valid (linear extrapolation is rarely accurate), I don't ever recall a period in which Soviet economic growth was several times higher than the US. Japan, yes, but with its significantly smaller population and resource base, seeing it outpace the US was always a long shot.

China, however, is well positioned to do so, especially given US manufacturing output continues to decline year after year.

By JustTom on 7/14/2008 1:52:29 PM , Rating: 1
During the 60'2 and the early 70's reported Soviet growth was higher than the U.S. Time magazine for one was fond of pointing this out. There was a large number of geo-political experts who believed the Soviet Union was on the verge of winning the cold war.Of course they were wrong, and the numbers that were extrapolated by the CIA from such things as steel or coal production really did not tell the truth about the overall health of the Soviet economy. It is easier to correctly estimate the growth of the Chinese economy, it is relatively more open, and our tools are better. However, it probably is still exaggerated. It is questionable whether even the actual growth rate is sustainable for any length of time considering the aging of the Chinese labor force. Although the U.S. is facing a similar demographic shift, although not nearly as severe, it is already highly developed. Most of the Chinese economy still is not. How the government will handle this aging population and still continue to grow robustly is a difficult question and one I bet keeps Chinese officials up at night.
Another probable drag on future growth is the desires of the labor force. While the government has fairly firm control on its population whether they can continue to do so as the labor force gets wealthier is open to question. While Chinese workers be happy to work in a smog filled environment along with the various health consequences that such pollution entails? How will the government reconcile increased wealth, social mobility, with a stifling political environment?
I am less worried with the Chinese than I am with America. It seems that America more and more sees wealth as ugly and evil. The true challenge to America, in my opinion, is to embrace growth not scorn it.

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