Modern Architecture in Beijing: A Visitor’s Guide

The ancient city of Beijing is renowned for its imperial style architecture. But in more recent times we have seen an explosion of contemporary and innovative style buildings pop up in the city. These buildings have an equal share of fans and critics alike. If you love modern architecture and want to check out what Beijing has to offer then here is an insider’s guide of places to visit.

1. National Centre for the Performing Arts

The National Centre for the Performing Arts is situated right in the heart of Beijing just next to Tiananmen Square and opposite the Forbidden City. It’s colloquially known as The Giant Egg due to its dome shape. Designed by French architect Paul Andreu the magnificent building houses an Opera House, Concert Hall and Theatre. The centre is also surrounded by an artificial lake, which adds charm to the building.

2. Galaxy SOHO

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, this futuristic building definitely stands out along Beijing’s East 2nd Ring Road. Completed in 2012 it has become a favourite amongst photographers and Instagrammers alike. The fluid style and bright white space makes you search for new angles every time you visit.

3. China Central Television (CCTV)

The contemporary buildings of Beijing are notorious for getting nicknames and the CCTV is no exception! Completed in 2012 the 44-story skyscraper is locally referred to as the “big pants” or “big boxer shorts”. The building, which was designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA and engineering company Arup, was completed in 2012. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public but you can capture the building from street level or from the top of the China World Summit Wing.

4. Beijing National Stadium

The Beijing National Stadium was a joint venture between architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron, project architect Stefan Marbach, artist Ai WeiWei, and China Architecture Design and Research Group (CADG). The stadium has been dubbed the “Bird’s Nest” and unfortunately it isn’t getting as much use as was originally planned. It’s still great for a photo opportunity! Another landmark to see is the “Water Cube” or National Swimming Centre to the west of the stadium.

5. Wangjing SOHO

If you are a fan of Zaha Hadid then the Wangjing SOHO is another destination to add to your list. There are three, sleek curved towers – when you walk amongst them you can’t help but feel that you are on a sci-fi movie set. Wangjing is a residential and technological area and the SOHO office and commercial space opened in 2014. Shops like IKEA and Carrefour are in the area but if you need to extend your architectural tour then a visit to the CAFA Art Museum, another example of contemporary architecture, is nearby.

Of course, this is not the definitive list.  Other contemporary buildings to visit include the China World Summit Wing, Capital Museum, and the Linked Hybrid apartments designed by Stephen Holl Architects.

What other developments or buildings would you add to this list?

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