Architectural Association (Luis Fraguada)



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    CHINA: Day 3 . . .

    Luis Edgardo Fraguada
    Jan 30, '06 10:44 AM EST

    Hmmm, big holes in the ground, big models, construction sites? Why? I want to see Beijing. It was interesting to see Lab Architecture's SOHO development, but there was too much time there. What did we learn? Well, I am still in love with scaffolding and the building scrim. But also, manual labor is cheap in Beijing. Working conditions are dismal at best. The developer giving us a tour laughed at the fact that the safety codes are much looser in China. If they were building that in America, his workers would need steel toed boots . . . so they can save a lot of money by endangering his workers. And he laughed. Hmm. Other things I saw at the construction site were workers temporary living quarters where their family would also live. Oh, and I cannot forget to mention the rotten rice and dough the workers ate.


    So, after some time there, it is onto the Temple of Heaven . . . or is it the Kingdom of Heaven? Either way. It was a place with very interesting energy. I know every time I say something like that it sounds real tree hugging hippyish, but really, something was nice about how I felt there. People were having fun, playing cards, singing, dancing, very interesting. And then of course was the Hall of Echoes . . . damn, all of these names escape me. The story goes that if you stand in just the right place in this out door space, and sort of cup your hands together, then the sound will return to you 9 times. It has to do with how the space is layed out. Because there were too many people and the place was now very old, the effect did not work anymore, but it was fun to think about. At one point all of us had to stop what we were doing because some seemingly Easter European guy who was damn important I guess, came through. I had no idea who he was, but I felt the military present should make me stay put.


    If there is a metro around, I want to be on it.


    And as if I did not feel like a tourist already, the Beijing Opera. There are a few things about this event that should have led me to believe that it was not going to be as cool as I thought. Wait, is that a sentence . . . But a few things, one, it was in a hotel, and two, we had to go through a bunch of kiosks selling crap to be able to get into the theatre.

    I am no expert on Chinese music or mythology, but something tells me we paid a hell of a lot to watch crap. Now, I know that Chinese music evolved with a different set of chords and tuning that makes it sound different than most western music I have heard. But I also know when a singer sucks. Basically we watched amateurs trying to pass as professionals, or maybe they were professionals, but they were being lazy. Either way, we were stewing in a tourist trap.


    • wow, I guess it does pay to goto the AA. Everytime I tried to walk on to a construction site in China I got chased off. Except when my father-in-law was there.

      Jan 30, 06 11:28 am  · 


      we also visited the SOHO site and got a nice tour of a few of the units (2 retail and 1 residential), some public spaces and a couple of roof gardens. At that point in time (two summers ago?) the first phase was complete. The community as a whole seemed rather sterile, and not only because the same all white bldg (at 1 of 2 heights) was repeated in a grid pattern.

      ( I was attending the UF School of Architecture's Hong Kong / China summer studio, which puts 15-20 seniors and grads in residence at HKU for 8 weeks, with excursions to Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing and Shenzhen. Professors Robert MacLeod and Nancy Sanders direct the program...)

      While in Beijing, we also visited the typical tourist spots (usually on our own time) including the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City etc.

      Of the two^ I enjoyed the Temple of Heaven for the reasons you describe. Everyone was using it like a public space, playing instruments, games, having picnics... The Forbidden City felt very Disney-esque. You couldn't go in many of the structures, and those that allowed entry were turned into gift shops. Also, at the Temple there were many Chinese enjoying the space. Only tourists at the FC.

      I look forward to more images...


      Jan 30, 06 1:21 pm  · 

      we're visiting hong kong and the prd in march for a week...any urban not-so-obvious-points of interest or recomendations for a day trip?

      have fun

      Jan 30, 06 10:32 pm  · 

      in Kowloon, visit Mong Kok, the most dense place in the Hong Kong SAR.

      Or, if you have a full day, take a bus from Hong Kong across the border into the PRC, to the border city of Shenzhen. It epitomizes the scale and speed of urban development in China, springing up at an incredible pace (from a hundreded thousand or so to well over 10 million in a relatively short time period)...

      Jan 30, 06 10:50 pm  · 

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