The Architectural Marvels of China

by Joe

Visiting some of the world’s greatest architectural achievements is yet another reason to visit China and being an ancient culture, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of ancient, recent and even modern examples of incredible artistry and engineering.
If what you’re after is a trip into the past, there are many fascinating places to visit including the Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Hallmarks of this old style architecture include timberwork combining stone carving, rammed earth construction, bucket arch buildings and many other techniques. Imperial architecture, traditional Chinese residences, Chinese garden architecture and religious architecture. Imperial Palaces were originally built to showcase the extravagant lifestyles of the emperors, as well as to provide a centralized location for demonstrating imperial political control. The imperial palaces were built on a grand scale, sparing no expense to display the majesty and dignity of the imperial power of the time.
The Imperial Palace in Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City, is located in the center of the city of Beijing. The largest ancient palatial architecture in the world is now home to the Palace Museum. Built between 1406 to 1420, the Imperial Palace is a complex composed of 980 preserved ancient wood and stone buildings. The Palace Museum houses and displays artwork, treasures and collectibles from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties.

 

 

After China’s communist revolution in 1949, the country’s architecture began to take on more of a Soviet-era look with “Stalinist” architecture becoming the common approach to new building projects.  Many buildings acquired a sparse look. Solid grey blocks and simple designs characterized many structures of this period.

The New Socialist Buildings Period is exemplified by the Big Ten Buildings, ten monumental buildings constructed in 1959 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the PRC.  These buildings combine Stalinist architecture with traditional elements of Chinese architecture. structures combine Stalinist architecture, traditional Chinese architecture and modern architecture.  A great place to see this type style of building is at the village of Nanjiecun.  Visiting is like going back in time to China of the 1960’s and 70’s.  This village shows what living in a fully-functioning communal village micro-economy (collective wages and labor units) would have been like.  One can see sweeping concrete plazas and broad, empty streets.  Giant portraits of Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Marx loom over the empty plaza where the principle feature is a large ivory-colored Mao statue in the center.

After China’s communist revolution in 1949, the country’s architecture began to take on more of a Soviet-era look with “Stalinist” architecture becoming the common approach to new building projects.  Many buildings acquired a sparse look. Solid grey blocks and simple designs characterized many structures of this period.

The New Socialist Buildings Period is exemplified by the Big Ten Buildings, ten monumental buildings constructed in 1959 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the PRC.  These buildings combine Stalinist architecture with traditional elements of Chinese architecture. structures combine Stalinist architecture, traditional Chinese architecture and modern architecture.  A great place to see this type style of building is at the village of Nanjiecun.  Visiting is like going back in time to China of the 1960’s and 70’s.  This village shows what living in a fully-functioning communal village micro-economy (collective wages and labor units) would have been like.  One can see sweeping concrete plazas and broad, empty streets.  Giant portraits of Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Marx loom over the empty plaza where the principle feature is a large ivory-colored Mao statue in the center. Examples of this thrilling style of architecture include the Jin Mao Building and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai and the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest), in Beijing.  Some of these buildings have generated considerable controversy, but their status as architectural showpieces familiar to people worldwide is well established.

 

 

In the modern era, China has moved away from its original socialist market orientation and has embraced the market economy.  As China opened up to the world in the 1980s, new architectural styles began to develop that combined elements of all of the older styles while also inventing new elements. The construction of these thoroughly modern and creative structures accelerated during the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 Expo in Shanghai as China sought to present a modern face to the world.  Part of this ‘new China’ aesthetic was demonstrated in a world-class architectural showcase of buildings unlike any seen elsewhere.

Modern icons include buildings such as the Jin Mao Building and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai and the National Grand Theater and the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing. Some of these buildings have generated considerable controversy, but their status as architectural showpieces familiar to people worldwide is well established.

China’s National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, as it has become known, is the world’s largest steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. It is “one of the key engineering marvels in the world today.”  The stadium was designed by Swiss Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and a Chinese Architect, Li Xinggang.  The requirements for its design were that it had to be inspiring and be able to withstand an earthquake.  In order to make the structure ‘light weight’ but earthquake-proof, the strength in 110 000 tons of a new grade of steel, the purest ever developed in China, including 36km of steel struts, was combined with an ingenious design.  The design came from the idea of a single thread wrapped round a ball. Layers of logical geometry give the appearance of randomness and an organic shape. Multiple pentagrams in the interlocking fabric of the elliptical structure are like the stars of the Chinese flag.

Heading to Shanghai?  Be sure to visit the World Financial Center.  It is the world’s tenth tallest building, and the fifth tallest in Mainland China.  Built at a cost of $1.2 billion USD, it stands 101 floors above ground and also includes 3 floors below ground.  The 100th floor features 100th floor observation deck.  This landmark to China’s recent arrival on the world’s economic stage, was actually an Amereican firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox, is managed by the Mori Building Corporation of Japan and was funded by multinational corporations.

Nearby, you’ll also find the 88 story Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai Tower that towers 400 feet higher than the Shanghai World Financial Center.  These three buildings form a grouping along the Pudong River in the Lujiazui financial district.

One additional example of modern the world’s tallest and longest glass bridge which connects two mountain cliffs in what are known as the “Avatar” mountains (the film was shot here) in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province.  The 6-meter-wide bridge stretches 430 meters over a 300-meter-deep valley between two cliffs in the stunning Zhangjiajie Park.  This bridge was designed by Haim Dotan, an Israeli architectural firm. Gene actually met Mr. Dotan, the creative architect who designed the glass bridge. During their conversation, he shared many creative plans for future projects which incorporate structure into natural landscape.

 

With a history as long as China has, a world of discovery awaits the traveler with an interest in architecture.  If you’re planning a trip there soon, we hope you’ll reach out to Word 4 Asia.  Our vast experience in China travel makes us a resource you will want to explore as you prepare!  Visit us online at word4asia.com for more information.

 

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