I have to admit that booking a trip to Beijing was somewhat compulsive. I’ve just started a new job and the airfare is quite expensive. But a friend of mine is going to be living there for the summer, and casually mentioned over lunch a few weeks ago that if I wanted to come for a visit, I could stay with her for free. Who could say no to a free room? Although I know very little about Beijing, I’m really excited to be going, and I’ve started putting together my to-do list. Of course, The Great Wall of China, Beihai Park and the Forbidden City are high priorities, as is a walk through one of the surviving hutongs and trips to the 2008 Olympic venues (The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube). Here’s a few of the other things I’m thinking:
Sanlitun Soho by Kengo Kuma
When I was finishing architecture school, I basically stole the design for my final year project from Japanese master Kengo Kuma. But I’ve never seen one of his projects in person (I’ve just been a fan from books and magazines). I’m not sure if his Sanlitun Soho is one of his best works, but I’m curious if his spaces are as graceful in person as they are in architecture magazines.
National Centre for the Performing Arts by Paul Andreu
Within the last decade my hometown, Toronto, got a new, contemporary opera house (designed by Diamond Schmitt). The building has beautiful acoustics and some interesting architectural touches (like a massive, virtigo-inducing glass staircase), but none of the sparkle that this pod-like building exudes. The NCPA isn’t just an opera house, though. It also has two theatres and a concert hall.
I find the idea of this city-within-a-city fascinating: a once walled-in section occupied by foreign powers in the early 20th century—Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the USA, the UK and Italy—quite close to the Forbidden City. The architecture looks very European (including a neo-gothic church), and apparently the area is now home to upscale bars and restaurants.
CCTV Building by OMA
This has to be one of the most aggressive, over-the-top buildings I’ve ever seen, done by one of the most inventive, if controversial, architecture offices over the past few decades—OMA. I’m curious as to how this jagged bagel feels in person (though I’m not sure how close I can get to it, or if it’s possible to go inside). I’ve been to two other OMA projects—the amazing Kunsthal in Rotterdam, and the less-than-enjoyable McCormick Tribune Campus Center in Illinois. I wonder how this one will compare (though something tells me it’s incomparable).
Of course, I’m aware this is another city. But apparently there is a high-speed train that rockets between Beijing and Shanghai, and as I’m going to be there for just over two weeks, it would be interesting to check out another part of the country.