Building Beijing | part I

Area nearby Dongzhimen subway station | July 25, 2009

After destruction, construction! While large parts of Beijing are lost, new appear. During the past weeks we undertook some accidental urban re-explorations, drifted between a spectrum of scales, crossed ringroads and monitored a metropolis subjected to post-Olympic development. Beijing is becoming a linked hybrid.

The art of continuous urban astonishment is easily mastered in China’s capital. Empirical research suggests that the pace of development features pre-2008 characteristics and districts are in the process of urban consolidation. Despite signs of civic life, everything still smells new, dusty, and one is constantly surrounded by the sound of jackhammers. Time for a new “Letter from Beijing“?
At the same time vibrant migrant life get mixed with massive middle-class consumption, garbage collectors blend in with gucci-grabbers and all sort of vehicles are caught into everlasting traffic jams.

Dongzhimen Nanxiaojie| July 25, 2009

Like so many we are these days reading the McKinsey “Preparing for China’s Urban Billion“-report [2009]. In it, Beijing is said to be a symbol of Chinese urbanization and epitomizing in many ways urban China. More specifically money, metropolitan movement and mobility are central in this:

The fact that the city currently offers relatively modest land discounts of 25 percent to incoming businesses – and even then to a few chosen industries – is evidence that it does not have to compete very hard for companies to locate in the city. This in turn leaves the city free to use its land increasingly as a source for revenues to fund urbanization. (…) Thus far, however, the city has skewed development to the northern areas of the city while southern areas remain underdeveloped. Every district is still thinking in terms of maximizing its own advantage rather than thinking about what would benefit the city as a whole. (…) The average speed of vehicles in the city center has dropped from 45 kilometers per hour to only 10 kilometers per hour over the past ten years.

The conclusion of the Beijing chapter goes as following:

..the city will need to leverage its land more strategically, apply concepts of sustainable development to its urban planning, and significantly improve its quality of life, most notably in limiting pollution and congestion. Should it be able to do all of these things, Beijing has the potential to grow into a modern supercity with a projected 27 million people by 2025.

Linked Hybrid | July 25, 2009

During recent Beijing bike rides we passed the Linked Hybrid-project (Steven Holl Architects / Beijing Capital Engineering Architecture Design Co. LTD) nearby Dongzhimen subway station. The complex is aimed at sustainability LEED Gold-rating, has been called “an ultra-modern expression of 21st Century living” and named the “best tall building in Asia and Australia” by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). In the end 2500 people will inhabit the building.

For a supercity of 27 million one needs 10 800 hybrids.

Beijing | July 25, 2009

Pictures by

Building Beijing | part II | MovingCities
Building Beijing | part III | MovingCities
Building Beijing | part IV | MovingCities

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