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No.6 Olympic Stadium, Beijing

Athletes at the Summer Games will compete in a nestlike venue by Herzog & de Meuron.

No.7 CCTV Headquarters, Beijing

No.7 CCTV Headquarters, Beijing

A tetrahedronal structure by Rem Koolhaas will be the most radically reimagined tall building in the world.No.8 Linked Hybrid, Beijing

No.8 Linked Hybrid, Beijing

Beijing nowadays is about the Olympics. The city is working hard to upgrade its public toilets, taxi fleet, lodging accommodations, shopping centers – construction is going on day and night as though achieving ‘Beijing 2008’ is an Olympic sporting event in itself.

I was there last week, visiting Bank of Beijing in which ING holds a 19.9% stake. The new headquarters of Bank of Beijing, the second largest city commercial bank in China and the third largest bank in Beijing, is located on Financial Street 17, in yet another newly arisen building complex. Bank of Beijing stands amidst other Chinese financial companies in their new office buildings – all with a sense of pride and readiness for the future.

Bank of Beijing Head Office
Bank of Beijing Head Office on Financial Street

I felt this confidence, although reinforced by the almost weekly headlines about successful IPOs and surging profits of Chinese companies in the financial services industry, did not just come from a high potential that success can be achieved; it seemed more to come from a feeling of inevitability that success will be achieved.

And people work hard towards this self-fulfilling prophecy. During my visit I was allocated some young staff to help me out with the work at hand. All in their first job about 2-3 years after graduation they were bright, fluent in English and enormously motivated. The official office hours seemed a useless reminder that one has to go to work to these people who start before and stay after office hours and who deliberately plan not to take holidays in their first years at work but instead work on presentations for their bosses in their free time.

This stands in sharp contrast from what I experience from many countries in the West where in some instances it is standard practice to mention in your e-mail signature, next to your phone and fax number, your weekly day off. Forget about planning a meeting at 5.30pm because actively working after 5pm puts you at risk of becoming outcast. Have I been too long in Asia Pacific to find that ‘quality of life’ is only remotely related to a 4 week consecutive summer beach holiday, 40 paid days off and a 32 hour workweek?

Admitted, the above is somewhat black-white and probably too spicy. However, I do suppose that satisfaction from achieving corporate success is higher when it comes at cost of personal leisure time. Or is that true for all types of success? Is that then what the Olympics are about? Beijing 2008 and beyond: let’s count those inevitable medals …

BEIJING BUBBLE BUILDING: China’s National Swim Center

by Emily Pilloton

PTW, WaterCube, 2008 Olympics Building, Bubble Building, Beijing Building, National Swimming Center

With all the new construction going up in China, it’s easy to lose track of “one more cool-looking” building. But PTW’s National Swimming Center for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing exemplifies what all this new construction should aim to be: beautiful, functional, forward-thinking, and most importantly, a good example for future development in a nation whose growth appears to know no bounds. The design, which won a competition in 2003 and will sit adjacent to Herzog and DeMeuron’s main stadium, boasts a striking blue “bubble” aesthetic, which is both eye-catching and indicative of the function it houses (we love this interior-exterior architectural connection).

Known as the “Watercube,” PTW’s design is a basic box, juxtaposed with an organic “bubble” structure that makes up the building cladding. The bubbles are both organic (in form) and highly-scientific, constructed based on actual arrangement of organic cells and the natural formation of soap bubbles.

WaterCube, PTW Architecture, 2008 Olympics, National Swimming Center, Beijing Building, Bubble Building

“Our ‘Watercube’ concept is a simple and concise square form that ultimately uses the water bubble theory to create the structure and building cladding, and which makes the design so unique. It appears random and playful like a natural system, yet is mathematically very rigorous and repetitious. The transparency of water, with the mystery of the bubble system, engages those both inside and out of the structure to consider their own experiences with water,” says Andrew Frost, Director of Sydney-based design firm PTW.

The skin’s material is just as innovative, its structural properties made possible by a lightweight and transparent Teflon called ETFE. The particular species of Teflon is designed to react to changing light conditions, which will create stunning visual effects for both visitors to the Watercube and to millions of TV spectators.

WaterCube, PTW Architecture, 2008 Olympics, National Swimming Center, Beijing Building, Bubble Building, WaterCube Detail

And if you’re wondering about the green-ness of the 7,000 square foot Watercube, PTW has brought in Arup, the highly-respected engineering firm to make the structure as efficient as possible. “Swimming centres require a lot of heating, but by cladding the building in high-tech ETFE cushions, we have developed a very efficient green house.
90% of the solar energy falling on the building is trapped within the structural zone and is used to heat the pools and the interior area,” says Kenneth Ma of Arup.

For more details on Arup’s sustainability studies, visit their website here.


WaterCube, PTW Architecture, 2008 Olympics, National Swimming Center, Beijing Building, Bubble Building, WaterCube Interior

WaterCube, PTW Architecture, 2008 Olympics, National Swimming Center, Beijing Building, Bubble Building, WaterCube Construction

Rem Koolhaas/OMA - TVCC, Beijing, China
Rem Koolhaas/OMA - TVCC, Beijing, China

Building a "Green" Beijing

New Buildings in Beijing

ITT pump systems are enabling new buildings in Beijing like (clockwise from top left) the Yintai Center, CCTV headquarters and Olympic Stadium be more energy efficient.

ITT fluid technology helps host city for 2008 Olympics become environmental showcase.

An estimated 4.6 million overseas visitors and 96 million domestic tourists will converge on Beijing next year to see the Summer 2008 Olympic games. Under the glare of global media exposure, Beijing wants to shed its industrial image and present itself as a leader in promoting environmentally sound municipal practices.

In a massive campaign to "paint the town green," Beijing is spending at least $5.4 billion to improve air and water quality, wastewater treatment, solid waste disposal and noise control.

As the epicenter of attention, the Olympic Village has been designed from the ground up to spotlight the great eco-leap forward. All competition sites have been required to use green construction materials and adopt technologies that conserve water, energy and reduce waste.

As the torch-bearer in fluid technology, ITT has been selected to supply several major Olympic facilities with the most energy-efficient water supply, drainage and climate control systems.

Inside Olympic Stadium — dubbed the "Bird's Nest" because of its grid-like appearance — ITT pumps made at our facility in Nanjing will keep athletes and spectators cool. The pumps control the hydraulic pressure of the stadium's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. A special heat-transfer mechanism enhances the system's capabilities, maximizes energy efficiency and controls operation noise.

Buildings springing up all over the city, including some 130 new hotels for the visitor influx, are winning green certification by choosing eco-friendly materials, technologies and managerial systems. ITT is a key supplier of fluid technology solutions for some of the most architecturally dazzling of these structures.

As the centerpiece of "Beijing Manhattan" — some 300 skyscrapers jutting up from the Central Business District — the new CCTV (China Central Television) headquarters will be the second biggest building in the world after the Pentagon. ITT beat out 10 other bidders to provide its energy-saving air-conditioning circulation pumps for this astounding engineering feat that features two colossal towers leaning toward each other at an angle that appears to defy gravity.

Just next door in Beijing's tallest building, the Yintai Center, ITT air-conditioning and fire-control systems employ the company's patented Hydrovar frequency converters, which incorporate a microprocessor to reduce energy consumption by up to 70 percent by automatically starting or stopping the pumps to meet water demand.

In Beijing's western portion, not far from the Forbidden City, ITT is providing water-control systems to two upscale office buildings, an exclusive residential complex and the Ritz-Carlton and Westin Hotels. Rushing to make the Olympic start date, crews working on these five-star hotels, as well as the Olympic Stadium and CCTV headquarters, relied on our Flygt brand drainage and dewatering pumps, featuring high motor efficiency and lower energy consumption, to keep the construction sites dry by removing groundwater so work could progress on an accelerated schedule.

Long after the Olympic torch is extinguished, ITT wants to keep contributing to the greening of Beijing through its expertise in energy and water efficiency. The president of ITT China, Bill Taylor, has made it a clear-cut goal. "ITT is committed to helping Beijing develop into one of the foremost environmentally conscious cities in the world."

International Design

Image © OMA

Central Chinese Television CCTV, Beijing

OMA/Ole Scheeren and Rem Koolhaas. Under construction, scheduled for completion in 2008

The design of the new Central Chinese Television (CCTV) headquarters defies the popular conception of a skyscraper -- and it broke Beijing's building codes and required approval by a special review panel. The standard systems for engineering gravity and lateral loads in buildings didn't apply to the CCTV building, which is formed by two leaning towers, each bent 90 degrees at the top and bottom to form a continuous loop.

The engineer's solution is to create a structural "tube" of diagonal supports. The irregular pattern of this "diagrid" system reflects the distribution of forces across the tube's surface. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren and engineered by Ove Arup, the new CCTV tower rethinks what a skyscraper can be.

Read the story

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Today the building is famous for its construction site ghost town, as the windowless, fixtureless, forever incomplete hotel has been added to local currency and maps even though it is never expected to be a functioning business or residence. However one must admit it took a truly innovative mind to conceive the idea of a 3,000 room hotel for North Korea – a nation that limits its tourism and visitors more tightly than almost any other nation on earth. Go figure.

If you are looking for further amusement, check out the currently underconstruction National Grand Theater in Beijing. Also known as “the egg”, the Grand will be open and functioning in time for the 2008 Olympics. So what’s weird about it? With it’s opera house logistics, the enclosure is semi-transparent, shaped like (you guessed it!) an egg, and will give guests a feel as if they are floating above a lake. Designed by the French, the local Chinese despise the building, however construction is still going strong so Olympic visitors can experience one of Asia’s architectural oddities in less than a year.

image courtesy of worldtraveldirectories.comimage courtesy of worldtraveldirectories.com

inside of the theater: image courtesy of english.people.com.cninside of the theater: image courtesy of english.people.com.cnTrailing behind Beijing’s dysfunctional theatre is the Oriental Pearl tower in Shanghai. Completed over a decade ago, the cringe-worthy design continues to dominate Shanghai’s night sky. It was originally supposed to look like various sized pearls dropping toward a jade plate (read – the river below), however most locals agree it looks instead like a giant, illuminated syringe after dark.

image courtesy of www.ilankelman.orgimage courtesy of www.ilankelman.org

Shanghai Riverfront with Pearl Tower: image courtesy of www.ilankelman.orgShanghai Riverfront with Pearl Tower: image courtesy of www.ilankelman.org

A final innovative building credited to Asian culture is an airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Ignorning the local’s nickname for the region – the “cobra swamp” – Suvarnabhumi Airport opened late last month with its neon lights and glass walls.

image courtesy of Suvarnabhumi Airportimage courtesy of Suvarnabhumi Airport

Unfortunately it contains a cracked tarmac and an incessant amount of robberies on its grounds. It is also famous for its distinct lack of bathrooms. The new airport is such a disaster, Thai officials are now confessing to the media that opening the old airport is their only option to keep up with customers and flight service. With the world’s largest control tower but some of the most ramshackle landing strips on the planet, you can’t help but wonder what it is Thailand was attempting to compensate for.

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