beijing explodes


Beijing today remains shrouded in smog – the product of heavy industry, three million cars and eight thousand construction sites.

Tellingly, it casts the place in the same melancholy light that bathes Monet’s and Whistler’s depictions of London at the end of the 19th century. The cause is much the same: the capital of the world’s fastest-growing economy is turning into a metropolis.

The extraordinary speed of change is nowhere more evident than in the new Central Business District. Fifteen years ago, this was a low-rise residential area. Today, the authorities’ ambition to build more than 300 towers lies well within reach.

Architecturally, the mean quality is low, but improving. An unfortunate craze for decking out office blocks as overscaled pagodas seems to have passed and the glassy corporate architecture of Canary Wharf and Lower Manhattan has become the new ideal.

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