With the Beijing 2008 Summer Games starting today, journalists from around the globe have descended upon the fast-growing city. In addition to stories about pollution and traffic problems, newspapers this week have been filled with reviews of Beijing’s innovative new architecture. Chris Hawthorne, architecture critic for the LA Times, penned a five-part series of articles on the changing face of China’s capital, calling the city’s Olympic-inspired building boom a mixture of “daring design with a totalitarian theme” and noting the role of Western architects in many of the recently finished projects (RECORD, July 2008). The highly publicized stadium designed by the Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron is known as the Bird’s Nest and will host over 90,000 spectators tonight. The arena is said to “embody everything from China’s muscle-flexing nationalism to a newfound cultural sophistication,” reports The New York Times. The next few weeks will reveal if this “sphere of resistance” can withstand the nearly impossible expectations that have been placed upon it to “gently redirect society’s course, “as The Times’ architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff described Herzog and Meuron’s intentions” , or if the Nest will house an empty shell of Olympic promises.
Although Beijing and the rest of the world appear to be caught up in Olympic-fever, another noteworthy event will also be occurring today in Beijing. Before President Bush is whisked away to the opening games, he will preside over the dedication of the US Embassy, the second largest diplomatic construction project in US history, reports China Daily. The $434 million complex, designed by the San-Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, consists of five separate buildings that incorporate traditional as The Times’ Chinese planning principles. Clark Randt, the U.S. ambassador to China, said that the new multi-building development will meet “unprecedented security requirements, while at the same time being energy efficient." China has the largest foreign embassy in the U.S. capital, which was dedicated in Washington last week. The symbolism of President Bush’s visit and the unveiling of the two embassies “reflects the growing importance of U.S.-China relations despite disputes over a range of issues,” according to the Wall Street Journal.