The word ‘antique’ comes to mind while talking of architecture in China. Stone tiled roofs, symmetrical layouts of buildings, wide courtyards, and Feng-Shui, of course. But Beijing’s several displays of modern designs demonstrate that for a few decades now the nation has embraced new, sustainable and less conventional designs! Some of Beijing’s modern architectural marvels are a sight of beauty for locals and tourists alike, remaining true to the ideals that have influenced Chinese art and architecture throughout its existence and taking steps towards the new era of architecture.
Host to the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing has gradually become an international destination of thriving modernisation and technology. The understanding of balance between undertone and grandeur, Beijing is a must visit for every architect!
1. THE NATIONAL CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Architect: Paul Andreu
The National Center for the Performing Arts is located directly west of the People’s Great Hall at the center of its own lake. For its ellipsoid shape, which looks like an egg, it is often called The Giant Egg. Opened in 2007, the building seats over 5000 within its halls alone. During its construction, the development of the Center sparked controversy because of its similarity to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Some thought that the traditional Chinese architectural form should have been represented. The project’s completion (among many others) indicated a change from the traditional Chinese design ideals to futuristic contemporary and post-modern designs.
2. CCTV TOWER
Architects: Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren, Cecil Balmond
Overlooking the central business district of Beijing, this 768-ft skyscraper has gained renown for its distinctive shape among locals. Beijing’s fashion and appearance acts as an indicator for foreign influences on China’s contemporary architecture. The tower is a product of complicity and ingenuity from both China and the West. The tower was built as three buildings that were adjoined throughout its development, and while it is home to China’s influential broadcasting network, the Chinese Central Television (CCTV), most locals simply refer to the structure as “big pants” (pinyin: dà kùzi) or “big boxers” because of its vague resemblance to a leg wear. Unveiled in Beijing’s CBD right before the 2008 Olympics, the CCTV headquarters form a three-dimensional tower circuit that seems to defy physics rules.
3. PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CENTRE
Architect: Shao Weiping
This doughnut-shaped design dominates the corner of Chaoyang Park and is one of the rarest architectural marvels in Beijing. Private broadcaster Phoenix Television’s sun-drenched headquarters are a complex net of twisted metal and 3,800 small latticed glass parts, all twisting around the middle of an open-air atrium.
4. NATIONAL AQUATICS CENTER
Architects: Chris Bosse, Rob Leslie-Carter
Another unforgettable architectural highlight of the Olympics was the Beijing National Aquatics Center – better known by its nickname, the Water Cube – with its glowing bubbles illuminating the Olympic Green. The Water Cube is the biggest use of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) in the world. It has a unique design of the bubble. The texture of its “soap bubbles” represents daylight and making the building look like a droplet of liquid sparkling in the sunshine.
It was built to serve as the primary aquatic center for the Olympics between 2003 and 2008. It has since been converted to serve the public as the largest water amusement park in the nation.
5. The Great Hall of the People
Architect: Zhang Bo (Chief Architect)
Style: Socialist Realism
Host to numerous political meetings and commissions, the Great Hall of the People was the pinnacle of Beijing’s “Ten Great Buildings” completed in 1959 to celebrate the People’s Republic of China’s first decade. The tower looks west to Tiananmen Square and the People’s Heroes Memorial and has become a landmark of China’s National People’s Congress.
6. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CHINA (SECOND PHASE)
Architect: KSP Jurgen Engel
The Beijing National Library is Asia’s oldest and one of the world’s largest. The library was founded as Peking’s Imperial Library during the Qing dynasty. It was renamed to the National Peiping Library in 1928 and later upgraded to China’s National Library, the official name it now bears. The library completed its’ second stage ‘ expansion in 2008, a tower of 250,000 square meters with almost a million items. The tower consists of three construction layers: an earthbound traditional foundation, a core section that is freely navigable and transparent, and a virtual roof layer that represents the potential of information storage and restoration. Ironically, the library includes the blind program that uses sound sensor machines to reach the visually impaired via the digital library.
7. WANGJING SOHO
Architect: Zaha Hadid
Shopping malls are not always the strongholds of architectural innovation, but Wangjing SOHO is a notable exception. Architect Zaha Hadid took her influence from the typical fans used in Chinese dance for this trio of rounded asymmetrical buildings, but these silver-colored metallic constructs were also identified as interweaving hills, giant pebbles, and breeze-flowing boat sails.
8. DIGITAL BEIJING BUILDING
Architect: Pei Zhu
Style: Hi-Tech (Sustainability)
Critics have slammed this imposing concrete construction like something out of a dystopian George Orwell novel, but fans think it’s pretty clever; it looks like a circuit board from the side, while the four separate slabs look like a barcode from the end. The Digital Beijing Tower, situated in the Olympic Green, was designed as a Games data center and is now a museum and exhibition area.
9. CHINA ZUN
Architects: TFP Farrells, KPF, BIAD
The kaleidoscopic next-door neighbor of the CCTV headquarters is the tallest building in Beijing, growing above the streets below. The official name is CITIC Tower, but after an ancient Chinese wine vessel whose form influenced the external curve at the top of the structure it is universally known as China Zun.
It was finished in 2018 and is now in use with office space, luxury apartments, resorts and a top-floor rooftop garden. The architectural design stems from the illustration of traditional Chinese ceremonial vessels named “Zun.” The tower rises to the top of the sky, displaying the indomitable spirit and representing the beauty of the Orient.
10. BEIJING YINTAI CENTRE
Architect: John Portman
Beijing Yintai Centre is a large mixed-use development situated in the Central Business District of Beijing, with architectural details that reflect ancient Chinese architecture in a modern way. The three buildings, rectangular in form, are simple and straightforward model experiments. From a distance these three buildings appear like fairly ordinary skyscrapers, but a closer look showcases the intricate design which crowns the main building, influenced by the wooden window latticework that is so popular in Chinese culture. A similar pattern spans the façade of all three buildings, and contains unique shops, luxury hotels and boutiques with five stars.
11. CHAOYANG PARK PLAZA
Architect: MAD Architects
This space-age skyscraper towers above Chaoyang Park like something that survived a science-fiction movie before one remembers that it was influenced by traditional Chinese shanshui (literally’ rain mountain’) paintings. Chaoyang Park Plaza has been planned to expand the garden landscape below, offering a larger-than-life representation of the mountains and waterfalls portrayed in those ancient masterpieces of paint.
12. PARKVIEW GREEN
Architect: Integrated Design Associates
Style: Hi-Tech (Sustainability)
Set in a prime location on Chaoyang’s Dongdaqiao Lu Road, near the ancient Ritan Palace, this dazzling glass building comprises a shopping mall, an art gallery, a boutique hotel and fashionable office space. But for its trailblazing conservation technology, Parkview Green is as remarkable as it is for its gleaming façade–there is a high-tech power-preserving ventilation strategy and state-of – the-art water saving systems; even the steel and glass shell has been engineered to conserve energy.
13. THE FORBIDDEN CITY
Architect: Kuai Xiang
Style: Chinese Architecture
The Forbidden City, built in 1406, is the world’s largest ancient palatial structure. This covers an area of 720,000 square meters with nearly 150,000 square meters of construction area. More than 70 palaces and more than 9,000 rooms are housed in the rectangular courtyard, which are 961 meters long, 753 meters wide and 10 meters high. The two palaces are on the courtyard axis.
The ridge line of halls features a row of mystical animal statuettes. Red walls and yellow tiles became signs of the imperial family’s supreme power. The Forbidden City represents the essence of Chinese traditional architecture.
14. THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
Architect: Ming emperor Shizong
Style: Traditional Chinese Architecture
Covering an area of nearly 2.7 million square meters (667 acres), the Temple of Heaven was the spot where the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1636–1912) emperors worshiped heaven every year and wished for a good harvest.
The temple is known for its detailed architectural architecture, its special architectural design and its exquisite architectural decorations. It is China’s biggest well maintained altar building. Main halls are located on a south-north line in the middle of the park, about 750 meters long, starting from the Circular Mound Altar to the Imperial Vault of Heaven and continuing on to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The architecture and design represent the essence of earlier Chinese cosmology, ideologies, and religion.
15. BIRD’S NEST
Architects: Herzog & de Meuron
This ultra-modern stadium was the shimmering centerpiece of the 2008 Olympic Games that took place in the northwest of Chaoyang’s custom-built Olympic Green precinct. The Bird’s Nest, officially called the Beijing National Stadium, is another Chaoyang architectural marvel with a quirky moniker–this one influenced by the criss-crossed metal beams that make up the façade of the stadium.