A City in Fast Forward

A recent article in the London publication The Observer has a great article on Beijing, my adopted home town, and gives an accurate glimpse of what it’s like in a city where someone has hit the fast forward button!  Here’s an excerpt:

Beijing is the capital of the world’s fastest-growing economy, provoking a titanic struggle between a totalitarian political system and the liberalisation that is the presumed product of its economic transformation. By some estimates, half the world’s annual production of concrete and one-third of its steel output is being consumed by China’s construction boom. The second ring road that marked the city limits until the Eighties has been followed by the building of a third, fourth and fifth ring. The sixth is under construction. Cars move around disconnected clumps of newly completed towers. There are now more than 2m cars in the city – already enough to wipe out all the improvements in air quality achieved by the expulsion of heavy industry from Beijing’s centre. The city map looks like a dartboard, with the void of the Forbidden City as its empty bull’s-eye. And with the abruptness of a randomly aimed dart, entire new districts appear arbitrarily as if from nowhere. A city that, until 1990, had no central business district, and little need of it, now has a cluster of glass towers that look like rejects from Singapore or Rotterdam. And these, in turn, are now being replaced and overshadowed by a new crop of taller, slicker towers, the product of the international caravan of architectural gunslingers that has arrived in town to take part in this construction free-fire zone. Rem Koolhaas, Jacques Herzog, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel and Will Alsop are all building, or trying to build here.

Go here to read the article.