What do we see when we scan Beijing 北京‘s skyline? Is it an amalgamation of architectural elements where one can’t be distinguished from the other, where there is no primacy? Is Beijing 北京 one of those city’s that do not have a skyline? Recently we lifted ourselves from the groundlevel and aerially appropriated the city. Follow-up and snapshots.
Some explain the ongoing urban development of Beijing by quoting Mao Zedong’s notorious 1949-statement. The Chairman, when overlooking Tiananmen square from the Forbidden City, proclaimed “we’ll see a forest of chimneys from here!” The Dutch writer and researcher Martijn de Waal contextualized this in “Beijing and Beyond” (2004) as following:
Not long after the revolution of 1949, partyleader Mao and then mayor of Beijing Peng Zhen climbed the rostrum of Tiananmen square and gazed at the horizon of the city that now was theirs to transform. Imagine, the chairman had pronounced with great enthusiasm. ‘We’ll see a forest of chimneys from here!’ The city, in the eyes of the communists was an ugly place. A capitalist stronghold, whose inhabitants pursued decadent bourgeois lifestyles. That, they decided had to change. Cities would no longer be places of consumption. They would be turned into places for the new working class.
Consumption is replaced by production which in turn is followed by consumption. This evolution has determined the image of today’s Beijing 北京 in any direction one tries to read the city’s horizons. It is hard to understand what we see from anywhere. And it hardly matters if it is ugly, planned, rational, well-thought off or just the result of a building burst. Trying to decipher the skyline’s sense, by observation, interpretation and speculation, one questions the analysis Eyal Weizman made in the interview we conducted with him in 2008:
…the economical cycles operate with a delay in terms of architecture. But the sophistication of contemporary financial mechanisms and the speed in which investments can be actualized and articulated in space makes the Chinese city skyline appear like a financial graph.
Couldn’t any cities’ skyline just appear like a financial graph? And while looking at this images below what does one see? A simple territorial Rorschach test?
Pictures by movingcities.org