city of contrasts
over the big blue, to the other side of the earth..
a series of intense experiences in asia during the past few weeks have left me with reflections on the people, the culture, and the work – and on developing a deeper sense about what is meaningful to those that i work with and design for in this community. i asked a young chinese colleague about her hopes and dreams for her life and her community – her answer was “I do hope I could leverage my knowledge to beautify our city by building better space for better living, working, make more money to help out more poor people, reestablish Chinese’s image by building a good image of myself and influence the people that have bias on Chinese people gradually….. I wish my country could be clean like Swiss, sophisticated like French, polite like Japan, open like American…”
in this city of energy, a grand chaotic choreograpy of bicycles and carts, motorcycles and people mixing with taxis, buses, cars – 17 million people…somehow a grandfather and child make their way, weaving through an intersection of thousands..
on this cold, sunny – lightly hazy morning, i walk through the gate to the temple of heaven – the scale of the compound stretches out, and on – the grounds full of tai chi groups and badminton players, a gathering of singers at the temple gate
the ancient places of beijing are not small – the forbidden city, the great wall, the temple of heaven – even the names are big, yet the details are intricate, carved, gilded, and richly painted
a city where the most modern international architecture sits next to ancient ruins, where newly sprung high rise residences tower next to dwindling hutong – the few remaining traditional neighborhoods give a snap-shop of life from another century.
this is progress, and it is fast - more than half of the construction in the world during the next 5 to 10 years will be in china, and more than half the particulate matter in the air here in beijing is generated from construction sites. it is a city taking shape before our eyes.
in the past 5 years since i have been working on projects here, there has been a great transformation. it is overwhelming to see the pace and scale – the realization of the vision of developers and architects – while wrestling with the demands – faster, cheaper, bigger.
heroic collective achievements – yet struggling for relevance and re-purpose less than a year after completion..
or already destroyed before even being completed – the burned-out shell behind cctv towers..