Beijing Goes Boom

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?”

New Opera House in Astana by the Presidential Palace
New Opera House in Astana by the Presidential Palace

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.”

Part of a new cable car to Shymbulak from Medeo
Part of a new cable car to Shymbulak from Medeo

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?

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Astana tower – “kukuruza” (sweetcorn)

    The fountain near the Ministry of Finances – “Chupa-chups”

    The three blocks of flats behind the Renco building in Chubary – “tri kitaitsa” (three chineese men)

    KazMunaiGas – “elevator” (grain elevator)

    Kindly supplied by my wife, as my memory is appalling 😉

  2. Donna says:

    We love reading! I have a beautiful daughter adopted from Kaz and sponsor an international Kazakh student now studying in the USA. It’s great to keep up on what is going on in Almaty and in other parts of Kazakhstan. Thanks for writing!

  3. KZBlog says:

    A couple other nicknames of Astana buildings besides the one Chris mentioned”

    The National Archive is called the egg because it looks like a big egg.

    Dom Ministerstvo, the giant building that houses all the Ministries is called “The Great Wall of China’ because it effectively forms a wall in front of the President’s Office.

    The President’s Office is called The While House because it looks a lot like the US White House and because the Kazakh name “Ak Orda” means White Horde.

    of course these nicknames are unofficial. They used to serve a valuable purpose because when all these buildings were new, no one knew what was housed in them. So it was impossible to give directions without some nickname that reflected what the building looks like.

  4. (small update, the three chinese men nickname might be incorrect – there are reports it is actually FOUR chinese men).
    Looking forward to future posts now that you’re back.

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