There’s an interesting article from Reuters on the Olympic construction boom in Beijing (and some great pictures). In preparation for the 2008 Games, China has concentrated on building ‘futuristic architectural statements’ to show off the state’s development. International events like the Olympics have long been used by the host nation as this type of showcase. In heavily ideological countries like the USSR and China, the importance reaches a new level. Tristram Carfrae, engineer and designer of the ‘Water Cube’ building, sees this as exactly the case:
“If you look at Beijing’s history of architecture and design as being about monumentalism, about the grand statement, then why should these sport venues be any different?”
The article covers some of the same issues I wrote about with all the new buildings in Astana, where new architecture is used to bolster the image of the new state. The presence of an authoritarian government in China also plays a big role in the size and scope of these buildings, and Kazakhstan has a similar ability to harness state resources for infrastructure and public buildings.
“Authorities can simply order 1,000 of the country’s best welders to leave their homes and come weld the ‘Bird’s Nest’ together in Beijing,” said Ming. “This is what can be done here.”
Further of note is the fact that Almaty will be hosting the Asian Winter Games in 2011. While the stage is not as big, the government will clearly look to these events to do the same type of thing. It will be interesting to see how they move to ‘clean up’ the city as they draw nearer. More designer bus stops? So far the money is being poured into the facilities of Shymbulak and Medeo- the mountain skating and ski resorts just south of the city.
Finally, the article brings attention to something Kazakhstan is missing for its new buildings: cool ernicknames. Beijing has ‘The Bird’s Nest’ and ‘The Dragon’s Back’ (designed by our pals at Foster). Kazakhstan has ‘The Lighter”. Any ideas for nicknaming some of Astana or Almaty’s new gems? Or some that already exist and I may not know about?