Pioneering architecture

China’s design revolution

Bold. Extreme. Futuristic. The skyline architecture of numerous Chinese cities is anything but ordinary. Buildings are not only designed for function, but also to make a statement. Both with their interior and exterior designs. 

Source: KLM Marketing

China is emphasising its superpower status with pioneering architecture. Since the beginning of the 21st century, futuristic constructions have been popping up all over the country. The booming economy and a new generation have also played an important role. For architects, China is a vast playground where the sky is literally the limit. Architecture fans will find China a fascinating destination where brand-new creations share the stage with 3,000-year-old temples.

During the day, natural light pours in through the glass structure. At night, the egg is illuminated from the inside out, revealing the silhouettes of visitors and transforming the building itself into a theatrical performance. The National Grand Theatre encompasses three performance halls, including an opera hall that seats 2,400 people, a concert hall and a theatre. The building also features various exhibit spaces.

National Grand Theatre, Beijing
An evening out in a glass egg

In the heart of Beijing, only 500 metres from the Forbidden City, stands one of the city’s architectural highlights, the National Grand Theatre. Its oval-shaped design has also earned it the nickname ‘The Egg’. The building is designed as an island in a reflective pool. Without a visible entrance, it appears impenetrable. Architect Paul Andreu left the exterior as smooth as glass to evoke a mysterious atmosphere. Visitors enter this cultural egg through a tunnel that opens up into a world of opera, fiction and dreams.

The arched structures are reminiscent of the bridges and the dark mirrored floor resembles the reflective surface of the water. “In the past, the water brought together many poets and literary heroes. The bridges served as a connection between culture and commerce. In the bookstore these represent the connection between people and books,” as explained by X+Living. The city of Hangzhou also features a similar structure by the same architect.

Yangzhou Zhongshuge Bookstore
Bridges of books

You think bookstores are dull and dusty? Not in Yangzhou. When designing the spectacular Zhongshuge Bookstore, architect Li Xiang of X+Living found her inspiration in the city’s water-rich environment. Two of China’s ‘golden waterways’, the Grand Canal and the Yangtze River, flow together here and the city boasts a myriad of bridges, gardens and water. You will find all these elements in the store.

Tianjin Binhai Library
Endless bookshelves

Books and architecture seem to go well together in China considering the fact that the architectural highlight of Tianjin is also packed with books. Inaugurated in October of 2017, the Tianjin Binhai Library was an instant Instagram hit. It’s easy to see why: the building’s wavy shapes are very photogenic. The library was designed by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV. From the outside it resembles an eye.

Inside, the luminous spherical auditorium forms the iris. The space is surrounded by waves of seemingly endless bookshelves that extend from floor to ceiling. Visitors can walk, sit and read on these bookshelves. The area can accommodate 1.2 million books.

Wangjing SOHO and Galaxy SOHO, Beijing
Following in the footsteps of Zaha Hadid

Nobody has left a greater architectural mark on China than the late Zaha Hadid, who designed at least twenty buildings. You will encounter one of her designs almost immediately after arriving at Beijing Airport: the Wangjing SOHO complex, also known as the SOHO Peaks. Strategically wedged between the airport and the city centre, this complex is one of the first impressions visitors get when arriving in Beijing and one of the last before they return to the airport.

In the centre of the city stands the Galaxy SOHO shopping mall, another gem that has sprung from the creative mind of Hadid. She drew her inspiration for this mega mall from the terraced structure of the Chinese rice fields. The architecture is a composition of five undulating units that come together, united by bridges. Flowing lines are a trademark of Hadid, also known as the ‘queen of the curve’. Even if you are not a fan of shopping, the mall is an absolute must-see.

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