Sunday, July 13, 2008

Changing Face of Beijing, a Look at the New China

                       If Westerners feel dazed and confused upon exiting the plane at the new international airport terminal here, it’s understandable. It’s not just the grandeur of the space. It’s the inescapable feeling that you’re passing through a portal to another world, one whose fierce embrace of change has left Western nations in the dust.Designed by Norman Foster, Beijing’s glittering air terminal is joined by a remarkable list of other new monuments here: Paul Andreu’s egg-shaped National Theater; Herzog & de Meuron’s National Stadium, known as the bird’s nest; PTW’s National Aquatics Center, with its pillowy translucent exterior; and Rem Koolhaas’s headquarters for the CCTV television authority, whose slanting, interconnected forms are among the most imaginative architectural feats in recent memory.

                  Mr. Foster’s airport terminal, the world’s largest, is the purest expression of China’s embrace of the Modernist creed. Its swooping form, which suggests two boomerangs placed side by side, has been compared to a dragon. Yet its real precedent is Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, a monument to air travel conceived by Albert Speer in the 1930s as a gateway to a new Europe. Both are part of a vision of a mobile society, one that extends back through Grand Central Terminal to the great train halls of Paris.

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