Could today’s Beijing be what New York City was at the turn of the 20th Century? According to this article in Vanity Fair, there are certainly many similarities to draw upon. Kurt Andersen starts off noting the correspondences between population growth and development of city infrastructure. In 1904 New York’s first subway line opened. Likewise, Beijing’s new subway system is spreading out at a breathtaking pace (a point which subway fanatic and Beijingologist, David Feng, is unlikely to let us forget).
But the most visible parallel of all appears to be the way Beijing has been transforming the landscape with architectural masterpieces since 2001 just as New York City did between 1902 and 1913 when “the city got Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, and both the Flatiron and Woolworth Buildings—and within the next two decades the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center.”
Kurt Andersen continues to gush about the “dazzingly, radically excellent” buildings popping up all over Beijing for the remainder of this lengthy article. Drawing particular attention to the impressive fact that, not only do the buildings look good, they are also functional:
…the two unquestionable masterpieces of the new Beijing—the airport and the TV headquarters—are building types central to everyday life, and building types that very seldom turn out better than mediocre.
He goes on to compare the Bird’s Nest to some of the greatest architectural icons in history, breaking the mold for new stadiums built in our day and age. Likewise, the residential-and-retail complex designed by Steven Holl, raises the bar for new apartment complexes which until now were “like public housing projects in luxury drag.”
Is it safe to say then that for Beijing the period that kicked off in 2001 is it’s announcement to the world that the Chinese Century has commenced? We would certainly like to think so.
CCTV Headquarters by yakobusan
National Center for Performing Arts by keso
Inside the Bird’s Nest by dondomingo
Beijing Airport, Terminal 3 by kirillmazin
Linked Hybrid by iwasteela