Arquitectura Viva
Monday, September 28, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 118_119


Foster, Andreu, Herzog & de Meuron, PTW, OMA, Holl
I-IV 2008

Olympic Beijing. China is a world power de facto. With an unprecedented economic growth, it faces with the celebration of the Olympic Games a challenge that endows it at once with national affirmation and global legimitation. Two articles analyze the development of the country, which has assured for itself a predominant international presence in the coming decades, and that of the capital, which takes advantage of the sports event to update headquarters and infrastructures. A map helps to locate the new facilities of the city.


Rosemary Righter
Out of the Red
China, Bright Millennium
Thomas Campanella
Capital Improvements
Beijing in Globalization
Olympic Facilities


Ideological Scale. Current architecture in China is not only ostentation of the growing political and economic power of the country, but also expression of the moment’s intellectual effervescence and of the desire to shape a new national identity. Six foreigners have contributed to this task: the British Lord gathers in the colossal airport the Chinese symbols and traditional colors; the French author wraps his ovoid theater with a titanium and glass membrane; the Swiss office presents the stadium as an iconic nest of steel branches in the Olympic Park, next to the bubbling facades of the swimming pools by the Australian team; the Dutch studio reinterprets the skyscraper building type in the headquarters of the state television; lastly, in the private realm, the American architect builds an interconnected residential complex.

Cover Story

Norman Foster
International Airport
Paul Andreu
National Grand Theater
Herzog & de Meuron
National Olympic Stadium
PTW Architects
National Swimming Center
OMA/Koolhaas & Scheeren
CCTV Headquarters
Steven Holl
Linked Hybrid Complex

Views and Reviews

Urban Design. The political, cultural and economic changes in China have transformed the profile of its cities; the emerging society, a totally consumerist one, wishes to create its own design brand.

Art / Culture

François Chaslin
The Mutating Chinese City
Tim Adams
Design Made in China

Artistic Dissidence. Two internationally renown Chinese authors have collaborated in the Games: Ai Weiwei in the design of the stadium and Cai Guo-Qiang in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic events. Laia Manonelles
Ai Weiwei, a Plural Artist
Marisa Bartolucci
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Big Bang
Viennese Circle. The sociologist Otto Neurath was the leading figure of the interwar urban debates and a pioneer of the information age with his defense of interactive creation and his statistical pictograms. Focho’s Cartoon
Ieoh Ming Pei
Various Authors
Recent Projects

Fair Volumes. The modernization of the Spanish law courts buildings has triggered the construction of the new cities of justice. In Madrid, eight local offices, the New York-based Pei and four London ones – Foster, Rogers, Hadid and FOA (two of which repeat) – present fifteen cylindrical pieces; in Barcelona, another British studio executes a complex of linear blocks.

Technique / Style

Emilio Tuñón
The New Courts Buildings
Fifteen Teams
Campus of Justice, Madrid
David Chipperfield / b720
City of Justice, Barcelona

To close, the large works promoted on the occasion of the Olympic Games in a barely democratic China spark controversy concerning the legitimacy of designing for regimes such as that of Putin in Russia, the autocracies of some ex-Soviet republics or the Gulf Emirates, areas all of them that are now experiencing an extraordinary construction boom. Products
Bathrooms, Ceilings, Platforms
English Summary
Olympic Beijing
Luis Fernández-Galiano
The Best and the Worst
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Strangers in Beijing

AViva-118-lfg.jpg (10184 bytes)The 2008 Olympic Games symbolically endorse China’s protagonism in today’s world: the planet’s largest nation flaunts its economic power and organizational skills through a sports, political and urban event that puts the ‘Middle Kingdom’ at the center of the global stage. At the same time, the colossal structures raised for the occasion – designed mainly by foreigners – turn Beijing into a rich laboratory of architectures that permit taking the temperature of a feverish discipline. Rising over a landscape of fast urban growth and vast destruction, which has led to the disappearance of the traditional city of hutongs and courthouses, the five major public works – to which we add here a private development as an example of the country’s present building boom – are emblems of China’s rise, but also serve to illustrate the current architectural debate.

The airport by Norman Foster, with its exact diagram of flows and an unexpected lightness in what is after all the largest building in the world, shows the stubborn resilience of modernity; a design approach that is also present in the National Theater by the polytechnicien and also airport architect Paul Andreu, whose pearly ellipsoid of glass and titanium over the water inevitably evokes that French geometric monumentality that leads us back to Boullée. Postmodern in their epidermic representation of random meshes are, in contrast, the two large sports venues of the Olympic Park: the great stadium by Herzog & de Meuron, turned into an instant icon of the Games – both techtonic and pyrotechnical –, through a huge skein that knits the steel to conform what has been described as an intimate and titanic nest; and the appealing swimming pools by PTW, known as the water cube because their prismatic precinct is clad in a translucent skin of soft ETFE bubbles. Midway between epithelial postmodernity and heroic modernity are the two high-rise projects, the striking logo drawn up as a folded frame by OMA to serve as headquarters of the CCTV, with its calligraphic expression of the structural stresses and its gymnastic, formal displays in a tradition that goes from the Wolkenbügel to the Max Reinhardt Haus, and through the KIO towers; and the Linked Hybrid by Steven Holl, eight intertwined towers that unite the metaphysical abstraction of a residential still life and the technical dynamism of their industrial footbridges, in the wake of those we admire in the Van Nelle or the Pompeia factories.

This foreign legion of excellence – only the Chinese Ai Weiwei appears prominently in the credits of the stadium project – has tried to interpret the needs and idiosyncracies of the country, but has also used this unique occasion to bring to China the present dilemmas of western architecture. European for the most part – British, French, Swiss, Dutch and even German if we were to include the urban axis by Albert Speer Jr. –, with the testimonial presence of an Australian and an American team, this gathering of talent significantly excludes the Asians – surely because it was out of the question to grant major commissions to the Japanese, by far the continent’s most experienced –, but still it is representative of the moment: the Olympic Beijing speaks as much about today’s China as about a global architecture hesitant between function and spectacle.

Arquitectura Viva 118_119 - PEKÍN OLÍMPICO
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