Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Beijing: architectural wonder (part II)

Of course another wonder of architecture needs to be mentioned. It is the China National Grand Theater of Beijing that opened on January 1st, 2008. It looks amazing from the outside.

"Three vast theatres are encased within the "tear drop" outer shell , which is made of titanium and glass. Built at a cost of 2.7 billion yuan (about 270 mio Euro), the building is surrounded by water and looks as if it has no entrance. With state-of-the-art equipment, its 2,416-seat opera house, 2,017-seat concert hall, and 1,040-seat theatre are expected to draw the world's best orchestras, operas and musicals, as well as domestic productions." (Guardian)

The inside's charm has to develop. So far you do not know where the underground parking ends and the theater hallway begins. Probably where the airport like metal detectors and handbag screens await you and determined staff take your water bottle away. Even it might have the best acoustics and most modern techniques, it can't compete with the atmosphere of any classic opera house in Europe. At least as long they have pinkish plastic flower arrangements pending along the hallway.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The new Wonders of Beijing

One of the new architectural wonders of Beijing is the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube. The venue for the swimming events of the 2008 Olympics is finished after four years of construction! It was opened for journalist yesterday and opens again on Thursday for a trial event.

It looks great! A fantastic and impressing surface of soap bubbles that looks even better when illuminated at night time. I read it is a combination of Chinese and Australian design work. 42 Olympic gold medals are going to be won here.

The other architectural wonders I am referring to are - still under construction -the CCTV tower:
CCTV tower
and the Chinese National Olympic Stadium, also known as the Bird Nest:

The Water Cube was initially designed by PTW Architects (Australia), CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation) and ARUP (Australia) developing the structure. I am impressed in how many major Beijing construction projects ARUP is involved: in all projects mentioned above and more.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Beijing: 1949 - The Hidden City

1949 - The Hidden City will be a new hot spot in Sanlitun opening in late March 2008.

It is a "multi-restaurant and bar siheyuan, resurrected from China's modern history, located in the heart of Sanlitun. With over 40 mature trees, the 1949 - Hidden City is 6,000 square meters of neo-chic walled privacy nestled in Beijing's party district. Featuring indoor and outdoor restaurants, cafés, bars, gardens, terraces, event spaces, a private members' club, and a contemporary art gallery, 1949 - The Hidden City takes the concept of the commune to a new level of get-down harmony."

This was quoted from the press release.

And I saw it, the work is in process, the interior not ready, but from what I saw, it will be a hit. It will be better, nicer, cosier and hopefully more authentic than the Shanghai Xintiandi area. 1949 (or nineteenfortynine) is located behind the Pacific Century Place in Gongti Beilu. It is on the areal of a former factory and recovers one red brick building from it. The new buildings around are build from the same material, red bricks, using additionally lots of glass and wood. The buildings are lay outed and connected like in a traditional siheyuan, a courtyard house.

What is the meaning of '1949'?
It was in 1949, when the Communist army, the People’s Liberation Army, formally entered Beiping in January and, and gave the new capital the name "Beijing". On October 1st 1949, Mao announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China.

The heart of the siheyuan is the outdoor Well Bar
At 1949 on offer soon: (see my comments in italic)

Join Gallery49 in an open, forum of discussion with artists who are currently under the spotlight in the contemporary Chinese art milieu. Debut exhibition starts early April. (The gallery space it self is very limited but the art can/will be on display all over 1949. A sculpture garden is planned.)

Sugar Bar
Café of choice for all in the area who know and love good coffee, and all things sweet. (This sounds very promising!! And it is located in a glass house - although Comptoire de France will not be easy to beat, maybe design wise)

Duck De Chine
Beijing's most innovative duck restaurant. Authentic Peking Duck sits well with some of France's best loved renditions of the noble bird … all washed down by the best beverage accompaniment, Bolli Champagne!
(uuuh... what a combination?!)

1/5 taverna
1/5 taverna is Beijing's 'escape' restaurant and drinking spot. In a rustic-chic warehouse-inspired space, share comfort food, dance on the table, play a tambourine. Over to you! (Originally they planned a Mexican restaurant with live Mariachi music... although I love Mexican food, even that type of music - but please, only in Mexico! Not in a siheyuan in Beijing.)

Noodle Bar
Noodle Bar is Beijing's best kept secret for those looking for a traditional, integrity-filled, artisanal, hand-pulled wheat noodle experience.
(It seats only 12 people around a square light wooden bar, no reservations will be taken)

Ultra-lounge bar and loft. Featured DJ gets down with old-school sounds whilst bartenders put the perfect drink in the mix.
(This is in the building that is claimed to be part of the original factory. Will be a great bar over two floors)

Well Bar
We made use of an old fire-fighting water well and turned it into an outdoor beer bar. Shady trees, ice-cold 1949 beer.
(They even plan to brew their own beer... I guess, Tsingtao or Heineken will also on the list. The outdoor bar is the spot in the middle of everything).

A private members club devoted to cuisine, fine wine and art culture enthusiasts; Club49 is Beijing's only club that harmonizes good taste, good fortune, and the good life. (Targeted on rich Chinese, I guess.)

This former factory building will host the bar 1/5
Who is behind this entertainment project? 1949 is conceived by Elite Concepts, one of the Asia’s leading hospitality groups. Founded in Hong Kong in 1991 by Paul Hsu, Elite Concepts manages a diverse portfolio of restaurants & bars in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jakarta. Outlets in Hong Kong include yè shanghai in Pacific Place; cinecittà and 1/5 nuevo; Dirty Duck Diner at The Broadway, Wanchai and yè shanghai Kowloon at the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel. Outlets in Shanghai include yé shanghai in Xintiandi, yé shanghai in Pudong, the naked cow on Dan Shui Lu and Deng G on the Bund, our new Sichuan restaurant.

Remark: I had the chance to visit the project earlier this months (and posted briefly about that). As the press release is out, I think I can also advertise with some pictures.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Colors in Beijing

It is cold and grey in Beijing these days. Many are suffering from a flue. Some have even more discomfort with unwelcome visitors: Due to the ongoing cold weather, and maybe due to the Year of the Rat on the doorstep, at night a bunch of mice are painting the town red... My house is on their party list too. Traps with cheese are loaded for tonight. I hope they move on somewhere else.

My grandmother said, dreaming of rats brings money. But I am not sure if that goes for mice in the house as well.

Anyway, here is some beautiful colorful art work to cheer (me) up:

These are two new paintings from the artist Fang Xiang. I love the serene atmosphere he is creating in his paintings.

Painting 1: Leisure time in Courtyard, 2007 - 68 cm x 68 cm, 52.000 RMB
Painting 2: Early Spring, 2007 - 68 cm x 68 cm, 52.000 RMB
Any further information: Creation Gallery, Ritan Park North East Corner, Beijing, tel. +8610 8561 7570

Friday, 18 January 2008

Beijing and a soft touch

I was asked to do a research for an article about fabrics to use in interior decoration.

Here is the article:

And here are a few addresses in Beijing for fabrics (click on pic to enlarge):

Of course, one of my favorite markets, the gigantic Muxiyuan Fabric Market needs to be mentioned as well. It is located in the South of Beijing, in the Fengtai District (check "Insider's Guide to Beijing" for address in Chinese). It offers an enormous choice of cotton fabrics, silk, cashmere, furs and accessories like buttons, zips, applications etc. (see photo above, cotton fabrics with cute Chinese pattern).

For the article I got inspired by lots of blogs: Absolutely Beautiful, Decor8, Design*Sponge, Girl Meets Glamour, The Style Files ... The magazine's designer choose a picture of a lampshade by Black & Spiro (Absolutely Beautiful Things), a pic from Elle Decor that I found via Girl Meets Glamour and a pic with tea towels by Skinny laMinx that I discovered via The Style Files. And merci to my French neighbours who introduced me to two of the shops I mention in the article (Fontainebleu and George).

The magazine I am writing for changed the name in January. Until December 2007 it was the well-known Tbjhome and was distributed together with That's Beijing. The magazine's new name is urbane. The people and the layout are the same. But urbane's 44,000 free monthly copies are distributed separately now. In future they want to cover not only Beijing but also Shanghai and other big Chinese cities.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

A Snowy Day in Beijing

Today it snowed in Beijing! In the morning I saw 2 snow flakes! Yes 2! My son did not see them but got excited when I told him. Other than you might have thought, it does not snow often in Beijing. The winters are very dry. But not today. The streets were white!

In the afternoon I was invited to have a look at a new project that I am going to write about in another issue of urbane. It will be a very exclusive and arty multi entertainment complex with bars, restaurants and a gallery. The project is called "1949" and is located in an old factory in the heart of Sanlitun. For now I am just posting a snow-covered sneak peak through the gate ...

It kept snowing all day! The traffic was rolling like every day (dense, slowly, unpredictable moves). But today, every 500 meter there was a car accident (rear-end-collision).

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Happy New Year !

(photo: creative Coke advertising in Beijing at a bus station)

Happy New Year 2008 !

I am back in Beijing after a busy Christmas holiday back in my hometown in Germany. I guess every visit back home is just too short to see all friends and family members and spend enough time with them. Especially when you have these long holidays when all the shops are closed in good old Germany. Imagine: you have only a half day for grocery shopping on December 24Th (Monday) to stock for 3 breakfasts, 2 lunch and 3 dinners more or less until shops are open again December 27Th (Thursday) ... similar thing on Monday 31st. You can imagine the queues...
And you want to meet friends and parents want to meet you...

I have almost adjusted from jet lag. Here are some news from Beijing:

* first new thing on the plane: no more health form needs to be filled out. So from 3 forms down to 2 forms to fill out before immigration. Progress for 2008 where half million foreigners a expected in Beijing!

* the magazine I am writing for, tbj home, is gone, kaput, no more. BUT: it lives on in the form of urbane - a new name for "China's best English lifestyle magazine" (I am citing). New is the name and that it's distributed not only in Beijing but all over China (I am not sure if the first issue in January is already distributed all over China). And I am still in.

* If you stay with kids in Beijing: the magazine tbj kids is getting better and better. Since the new editor re-designed the magazine it is really worth reading. And the website is informative as well with a blog and a forum.

* In Germany I heard that the exhibition of Chinese terracotta warriors in Hamburg was stopped as some of the worriers that were deemed as originals were fakes. I was smiling about that 'scandal'. Hey, what do you expect? In China copying is a form of art. I am also amused to read at Danwei that someone somewhere heard a gossip that maybe all terracotta warriors, even the ones in Xian, might be made by modern hand (and original clay, of course). Read Danwei's (German) critical article here.

* One more thing about China and the German media. It seems more a la mode than ever to write about China. Of course the world focuses on China because of the upcoming big event, the Olympics 2008, that start on August 8 at 8.08 in Beijing. So I read articles in Germany about migrant workers, Chinglish, etiquette training, Chinese art scene etc.

* The air quality report (see blogroll) is back online. Even if the air of downtown Beijing is not surveyed anymore on the busiest streets but in less polluted areas, I am glad it is reported again. (I am not sitting at a traffic junction all day).

* Today I passed by a river near Liangma flower market and looked twice through the window as I could not recognize the area. It took a moment until I realized that all the hutong houses were demolished and cleaned up. I remembered that I wanted to take some photos there as it was a picturesque area in the middle of a developed business and residential area. Too late.

* In China we are still in the old year of the PIG. The new year of the RAT is still to come. Chinese New Year will be celebrated a week long in February and is a national holiday. My ayi wants to take off two weeks, better three weeks! help! The trip to her hometown in Anhui province takes 19 hours by train. She will be reunited with her 9 year old son and family.

* The national holidays in May, the May Golden Week, instead is cancelled by the government. This change was made in order to avoid the negative effects when millions of Chinese are travelling and to allow flexible holidays.

I discovered this photo art by Floriane de Lassee, a young photographer born in 1977 in Paris. It is available via the photo art gallery Lumas. It is not Beijing. It is Shanghai. She didn't do any shot in Beijing, but in Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Istanbul, NY... I am fascinated and that's why I am posting it on my Beijing Notebook. Click on the picture to enlarge. Happy New Year!


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