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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 emarston on 7/14/2008 6:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
China has several major obstacles they've created by their unbelievable leap economically.

1. Where is the water coming from? The primary population and development is in a more arid area. Due to the recent boom their farming techniques are actually depleting the groundwater heavily and the thirst continues to grow under current economic plans. They are building pipelines from the much wetter south, but will it be enough? It certainly doesn't help that that portion of the country is prone to earthquakes (recent history anyone?)

2. The "One Child" policy is leading to a large imbalance as females are typically aborted leaving a large male population without companionship (generally speaking of course). It should be interesting how that affects the country a decade or two down the road.

3. What's going to happen if/when they do finally float their currency on the market? It should go up against the dollar making Chinese goods more expensive and less desirable to the consumer.

These are just a few thoughts. Who knows, they could take over the world, but then again their massive economic boom could just as easily come to a screeching halt. Only time will tell.

RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Oregonian2 on 7/14/2008 8:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
I know they've built a dam insanely large backing up an insane amount of water that will (if it hasn't already) flood a very large area where a huge number of people (even on a "Chinese scale") have been displaced from. So they've at least that source of water (albiet not the cleanest water one ever did see from photos I've seen).

By emarston on 7/15/2008 7:32:36 AM , Rating: 2
Again, if you note it's location the dam isn't where the people are (it's way south). They aren't even sure if it will have an affect on the earthquake prone area (that is an awful lot of water weight). I must admit though that it is one hell of an engineering feat and it will provide a huge amount of electrical energy.

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