Mark Magazine has its 14th issue out. Bert de Muynck | movingcities contributed to it with an article on Beijing’s Olympic Architecture. Throughout the past months the flood of article’s on the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube delivered a particularly distorted image of the impact of the Olympic Games on the Chinese capital city. Focusing on a few lesser known Olympic Stadia might put Beijing’s Olympic development in another perspective.
During the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympics the international (architectural) media has exhaustively reported on the urban development of the city. In their feeble attempts to describe what is happening and measuring the impact of the Olympics on Beijing, these media have seldom done more than what they did during the past years. Endless repetitions, pseudo-analysis and speculations pay lip service to the international starchitects working in China’s capital. The media’s obsession with the Water Cube, the Bird’s nest, CCTV, Linked Hybrid and the Egg is none less than obscene, perverse, retarded and vulgar. Recent contributions, written by ‘architectural critics’, to this evolution are From Mao to Wow! (Vanity Fair), In Changing Face of Beijing, a Look at the New China (New York Times), Secrets of the Bird’s Nest (The Guardian), Forbidden Cities (The New Yorker), Out of the Blocks (The New Yorker),…
What else can these hit-and-run articles mean than that we are facing serious problems when it comes to analyzing, describing and trying to understand architecture and urban development? Note that this is not a problem solely limited to China. We are clearly living in an era where the news-papers ‘architectural critics’ like to feed their audience with a diarrhea-meets-design discourse.
But let us not loose focus.
Overall, the Olympic Architecture goes beyond the mediocrity of the capital’s architecture, embodying a certain identity while following the logic of the economic quantum leap China is making, turning a society of producers into a society of urban consumers, where there is room for spectacles that aren’t political mass movements. At the same time, the architecture expresses a search, successful or not, for forms that are recognizable, thereby mixing tradition with technology. In the repetitive sea of housing and bland corporate towers, the new buildings are islands of amusement, competition, consumption and distraction.
full version here
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“Olympic Architecture” by Bert de Muynck
Published in Mark Magazine #14 June/July, 2008
Other publications in MARK Magazine:
A Letter from Beijing | Published in MARK Magazine #09 (July/August, 07)
An interview with Ai Weiwei (CN) | FAKE Design | Published in MARK Magazine #12 (Feb/March, 08)