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Beijing not a test field of architects
Updated: 2004-09-22 14:51

National Grand Theatre, designed by Paul Andreu. [file]

Nest-shaped stadium for the 2008 Olympic games, designed by Piere de Meuron. Inserted at the top right corner is the design of the swimming center. [file]

CCTV headquarters designed by Rem Koolhaas. [file]
Beijing is abuzz about the designs of some landmark buildings under construction or to be constructed. Some Chinese architects and critics say foreign architects have turned the capital city into a test field, some say the designs are avant-garde and some others see these designs as ugly.

Paul Andreu, a French architect who is the chief designer of dome-shaped National Grand Theatre in downtown Beijing, weighed in and gave his comments.

Andreu, attending the Architectural Biennial held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 20, said he could not agree to the "test field" argument.

He said not many foreign architect firms have entered the Chinese market, and in his eyes, the "special" designs of a few architectures in Beijing are actually not bizarre at all.

Opinions may differ greatly on the design of new architectures, particularly in cities with a long history and traditions. He said this is the case as far as Beijing is concerned.

In recent year, some foreign architects won competitive bidding to design landmark buildings in Beijing to help shape up the landscapes of cosmopolitan city in the 21st century. Andreu is one of them.

Andreu won the bid to design the National Grand Theatre in 1999. The dome-shaped theatre, located in the heart of the city west of the Great Hall of the People near the Tian'anmen Square, is to be completed before the 55th anniversary of the foundation of China in October.

Herzog de Meuron (left), designer of the nest-shaped stadium, chats with Paul Andreu, designer of the National Grand Theatre, in Beijing on September 20. [file]
"I don't see it bizarre," claimed Andreu. The architecture is constructive to the change of the city's landscape, and most importantly, it is in harmony with the surrounding environment, he said.

Andreu, an architect famous for his design of Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris and of course, the roof collapse of the airport terminal four months ago, regarded the dome-shaped theatre as an excellent and a secure piece.

As Beijing gears up for the 2008 Olympic games, the designing of many sports venues are commissioned to foreign architect firms. The proposed new arenas include a 100,000-seat Olympic stadium by the Swiss architects Herzog de Meuron wrapped in a "bird's nest" of tangled columns, and a swimming center by the Australian firm PTW with a facade of translucent, lightweight panels to be inflated to resemble huge bubbles.

And two years ago, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was chosen through international competition to design a new headquarters for CCTV, the state-run broadcasting company. The looping, O-shaped skyscraper, with a budget of at least $600 million, was collaboration between Koolhaas and a partner, Ole Scheeren of OMA.

Due to continuing and heated debates in China and Beijing's plan to construct the sports venues in a thrift manner, the construction on the Olympic stadium and swimming center was temporarily suspended for the designers to modify their designs. For example, the convertible roof of the "nest" stadium was erased from the design. Experts say this would make the stadium safer and it will reduce the construction costs.

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