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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 wordsworm on 7/14/2008 6:52:22 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, and what is Canada, England, France, Spain, and America doing to provide restitution to the Native Americans? How about restitution to African Americans for the centuries of slavery? Or did everyone forget that each one of these countries have committed grocer, more heinous crimes against humanity than China has in its history?

Perhaps, by pointing the finger at them it's easier to forget that our own dark closet is overflowing the with skeletons.

By GaryJohnson on 7/14/2008 9:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
In China, the suffering can be relieved and the guilty can be punished.

This is not possible in the examples you cite where the guilty and suffering are long dead and no action can be wrought to benefit or hinder them.

RE: world's most inspired architecture
By Dephcon on 7/16/2008 11:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
uhhh.... in Canada "first-nations" are paid $400 per month to go to high-school, which is already free and they get free college education. As well they don't have to pay either provincial or federal taxes.

By wordsworm on 7/20/2008 10:32:20 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, great. So, after killing off most of their people, taking almost all of their land, forcing them to stay within their communities in order to receive their tribal rights, somehow $400 per month makes up for it all? As far as not having to pay these taxes, that's only for as long as they're on the tiny plots of land that they've been allowed to symbolically hang on to.

If you think that somehow this pittance is anywhere near worth the value of what has been stolen from them, then you have a very poor sense of value.

Have you ever seen a police gang bang? I have. I saw at least 15 police simply trash this poor young man when I was just outside of Merit in BC. When they went postal about a year later, most folks were blaming the Natives there. I just had to remember what I saw that one night.

You have absolutely no idea what the government has done and continues to do with its policies against the Natives throughout Canada. These little allotments of cash are nothing more than chump change being thrown at folks who've had everything valuable taken away from them.

In any case, in Canada, the public likes to keep its heads in the sand to help it forget the outrageous injustices that are perpetrated against them, because it makes us feel better that we're living on what should have been their land. China's track record in the last 200 years with human rights is trivial compared to ours. But we're only too happy to forget our own sins. The sins of others help distract us from them. That's why our stupid governments continually insult Chinese officials. Heck, we even have a nasty track record with the Chinese who settled in Canada. O'Canada, our home and native land? The only proper, moral thing to do is to leave NA and go back to Europe, Africa, Asia or where ever it was we came from.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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