Beijing JJStyle 05: The State of Architecture

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One of the main reasons why I was drawn to practice architecture in China was the bountiful opportunities within the region to build, and as a designer, to play a part in helping shape China’s newly built environments.

It’s cool that people can go to Beijing, and actually self-prescribe their own Architectural tours of the city. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there’s just been so many new architectural projects to see, with some structures designed by the world’s top “Starchitects”. At my request, we were lucky enough to check out the National Stadium, or The Bird’s Nest, as most residents lovingly call it. This “nest”, conceived by artists, Ai Weiwei, was a token symbol of China’s rise not only as a global power, but as a possible influencer of culture.

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With the help of Swiss architects, Herzog de Meuron (HdM), Ai Weiwei’s form, formulated by an intricate lattice work of steel, was finally constructed and made it just in the nick of time by the Olympic’s inaugural celebration.

Stairs are incorporated in the building facade form.

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Inside it’s equally impressive in a different scale.

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It’s interesting to see for myself how all the puzzles fit, which is what I did as I walked around the stadium.

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And then the sports field is revealed…

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Denise just takes it all in.

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So very impressive.

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The internal skin constructed with water resistent tensile membrane called ETFE. It’s very strong and durable.

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There’s also real time computer monitoring of the Bird’s Nest’s structural health. Visitors can view structural health assessments via TV screens located around the public circulation. There are graphs for temperature, structural straining, wind speed and direction through the stadium, and vibrational analysis for example.

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The beauty is in the form as much as it is in the science.

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Even the glass balustrades around the Stadium had the facade pattern printed on it. The building’s story is followed through until the very detail level which is impressive.

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My friends, Denise and Jason, had fun getting their photos taken in “uniform” at the gift shop.

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The Bird’s Nest is but one of so many new and daring structures that have the opportunity and the flexibility to pop up in Beijing. Driving around the city, there are just so much more to see, and half of them designed by not so famous architects so they never get as much publicity as they could.

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This one below is designed by Zaha Hadid, and it’s called Galaxy Soho.

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Of course most streets are still lined with trees and are very low-rise in nature.

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And then there are sublime moments when your car drives past one of these structures. It’s Ancient history… within reach.

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Some of my other favorite projects in Beijing include OMA’s CCTV, Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid, and Paul Andreau’s National Opera.

And the construction just never ends as Beijing STILL “goes for the Gold”.

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ARCHITECTURE National Stadium - Bird’s Nest 

This post was originally published on November 21, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.

JJ.

Beijing JJStyle 03: Walking Wangfujing

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The great thing about staying right in the center of Beijing with the Beijing Hilton Wangfujing is that we’re actually located so close to all that is happening in the city. Culturally, Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City are but a few blocks away. Also close by are the famous Hutong areas which I’ll get more into in the next few posts.

But right next door to the Hotel is the famous and historic Wangfujing Pedestrian Shopping street which houses tons of international and local fashion brands, but also houses the historic Wangfujing Beijing Deparment Store which welcomes up to 10 million customers a day apparently! 

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For Mac Geeks, next door is the Apple Store, which opened the day we got there. Insane.

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What Wangfujing is really famous for these days is the row of street food stalls which are open daily from 5pm-10pm. The food is representative of local Beijing delicacies, and all prepared in a very clean and nice way. The brand ambassador at Hilton, Elvis, took us around for a food tour on this street. I couldn’t get enough.

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Hello Pineapple Rice!

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This guy was making Spicy Dan Dan Noodles. I was dying of hunger.

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Delicious!

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These steamed soup dumplings looked juicy

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Just add hot broth… instant soup!

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My favorite were these tasty pork baos. I can still taste the flavour.

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Hello lamb legs.

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This larvae on a stick was not for me.

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Nor was this snake for me either.

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Custard buns!

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And pan fried pork dumplings!

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For the sake of adventure, I tried deep fried starfish.

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I bit into it right away thinking that was that. The cook laughed at me because I was biting into the “shell”. I had no idea that it was to be eaten like a crab! You were supposed to break the shell open and eat the meat inside.

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After dinner, my friends Denise, Jason, and I went for a walk down the shopping street. It was winter in Beijing so we all had to bundle up.

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Local brands were interesting. We haven’t seen these brands outside of China.

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Jason stopped by Nike to get hard to find limited edition shoes not available anywhere else in the world.

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We fooled around a bit around the statues in the square.

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I was getting a haircut.

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The hotel looks so romantic at night.

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The street food went back to the hotel. It was a mess. A good mess.

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EAT Donghuamen Night Market at Wangfujing / SHOP Wangfujing Department Store

This post was originally published on November 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.

JJ.

Beijing JJStyle 02: The Perfect Peking Duck

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Yes Beijing is mostly known as the center of China’s Political and Historical center… but another thing the city is known for is its cuisine… and most notably… the Peking Duck! The duck, originally named Shaoyazi, is the country’s National Dish, with roots going back to around the 1300’s and is a staple of Imperial Cuisine.

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The duck for the perfect Peking, is bred especially for the dish. Hilton Beijing Wangfujing gave me and my friends the opportunity to help the Hotel Chef make one for our dinner at Chynna, one of the city’s premier Chinese cuisine destinations located in the hotel.

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Of course as part of the deal, we would be filmed making the Duck. I was just afraid I’d mess it up! But of course with the help of the Chef and my friend, Denise, it turned out to be a messy, yet fun learning experience.

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I couldn’t quite get the duck to open up the right way in order to put in the right herbs and spices. The Chef had to help me struggle with it, which was pretty funny.

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After the setup, and boiling and glazing the duck in a special soup… we were able to check out the roasting area.

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This is where the Chef would line up the ducks that were ready for roasting after hanging to dry for 24 hours. The duck cooks for less than an hour… then it’s ready to serve!

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Before dinner, my friends and I were treated to some wine and cheese as an appetizer in the Wine Room, which was cool.

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Then it was on to Chynna for dinner to finally taste the duck. 

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The interiors were pretty cool… a nice update of Chinese themes in a very modern and contemporary fashion. It was very very “Beijing Style” NOW.

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Of course the chef was ready for us to have our feast… and boy we DID have an amazing feast there.

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Just some of my favorite dishes… Fresh egg rolls.

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Marinated jellyfish with aged vinegar

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Sautéed assorted mushrooms with spinach and tofu

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Beef with sautéed porcini mushrooms and black pepper! SO yum!

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My friends loved this stewed pork rib dish in sweet and sour sauce

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We also had tons of dessert… like this mango yogurt dish… and the Tiramisu in a cocktail glass. So good.

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I’m full just looking at the pictures again. Thanks Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the amazing dining experience!

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EAT Chynna 

This post was originally published on November 15, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.

JJ.

Beijing Bang!

All six of my Beijing Blog posts for CNN.com / CNN Travel are now up! Read them, take the quiz, and maybe you and a friend will get a chance to win a trip and stay in Beijing with Hilton Hotels & Resorts!

In the first post I write about my stay at Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.

In the second post I write about awkwardly making a Peking Duck.

In the third post we try street food in Wangfujing Markets and Commercial Shopping Street next to the hotel.

In the fourth post, we visit Tiananmen Square.

In the fifth post we check out Architecture in the city.

And the sixth post, the fun one titled “Streets of Style”, I take you shopping through Old…

and the New…

With the Hutong and the Village at Sanlitun. I even took some really cool street style photos!

Check out the video!

Good luck! Hope you can go to Beijing too!

READ JJ in Beijing via Hilton and CNN

JJ.