Beijing JJStyle 01: Livin’ Large at Hilton

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Hilton Hotels and Resorts gave my friends and I the amazing opportunity to witness creative and stylish Beijing via the Stay Hilton. Experience Asia Contest. I couldn’t wait to see Beijing, as it is now, post Olympics. The last time I went was a year before the 2008 Olympics, and already back then I knew that the city was going to be one of the my top favorite cities in the World, and surely #1 in China for me, mostly as a center of Political Power, and China’s historical and cultural center.

The good news is, the Stay Hilton. Experience Asia. trip made me realize, that Beijing today is way better than it was when I last visit all those years ago. It is still my #1 favorite city.

As soon as we landed at the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA), we were greeted to a surprising welcome at the gate. There was a lady with a sign. We felt like a celebrity, it was very cool. I felt at home right away.

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The BCIA opened right before the 2008 Olympics, and its impressive design is based on the Dragon. It’s designed by Sir Norman Foster for Foster + Partners from the UK. The firm claims its the largest airport building in the world!

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After a warm welcome at the airport, me and my pals, Denise and Jason were picked up in a nice Mercedes Benz where it was a relaxed and smooth ride all the way to the hotel. I was surprised how quickly it got to Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, especially because it’s centrally located within the first ring road, so I expected it to be far.

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On the way we were in awe of Beijing’s urban landscape. As an architect, I really appreciate the right sensitive mix of new and old structures. I really feel that a city must make bold urban statements with design, but at the same time, be mindful of its past while preserving historic architecture. This is exactly why I was happy to visit Beijing all over again.

Steven Holl’s Hybrid Project on the way to the hotel.

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We got there in style, and were greeted by signature Hilton hospitality at the front door of the hotel at Wangfujing District, Beijing’s main commercial and historical central business district (CBD).

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Hilton Beijing Wangfujing turned out to have less of a business feel and while the hotel catered to that, the scale and design was completely like a boutique hotel and destination oriented, as Beijing is one of China’s top global tourist destinations.

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After a smooth check in at front desk, we were led to our Premier Suite. It was breathtaking and pretty freakin’ cool.

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The Premier Suite suite has one bedroom, two bathrooms, a dining room and kitchen to entertain, a living room, an office area, a fully stocked bar, two flat screen TVs, and a Nintendo Wii.

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I wish I had a walk-in closet like this in Hong Kong, a city of tiny spaces and apartments. Everything in Beijing felt even more “Grand” with a room like this one.

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We were greeted with cute little things… like this Teddy.

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This plate of Macaroons which took a few days to eat.

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And this amazing dessert plate.

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Downstairs we had a welcome buffet lunch at Vasco’s.

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The design of Vasco’s was quite chic and classic at the same time. There was plenty of sunlight into the space. But most of all the food selection was great. There was a mix of Eastern, Western, and Regional Chinese Dishes. For breakfast we all had press coffee. It was divine.

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As if the dessert plate in the room wasn’t enough… we had to get more at Vasco’s.

Later after lunch we all checked out the amazing rooftop pool. I could spend hours here. Great for quiet reflection especially at sunset.

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Anyway, i’ve checked out the bar in the room which came with an espresso machine.

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And with the Wi-Fi and a nice corner desk, my blogging was ready to go!

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The other guys were making themselves feel right at home.

I cant wait to write more of my Beijing experience. But first… I need to make myself coffee at the Executive Lunch. (The best coffee in Beijing haha)

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STAY Beijing Hilton Wangfujing / EAT Vasco’s / ARCHITECTURE Linked Hybrid / ARCHITECTURE Beijing Capital International Airport

This post was originally published on November 13, 2012 for CNN.com and Hilton Hotels and Resorts for the CNNGO Experience Asia Contest.

JJ.

theW+ Sunday Review 2011.09.11 // 5 Things To Do This Mid-Autumn Festival

This year the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival in Hong Kong falls on a Monday night. If you’re a local, you would most likely celebrate this year’s financial “harvest” with a gigantic dinner with your family. If you’re an expat, it’s probably another chance to get out and have a few drinks or to do a few leisurely activities with friends you have not seen in a while. Either way, most Hong Kongers, locals and expats alike, and those who are in town visiting should not miss the gigantic Lanterns on display in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park, or witness the biggest and brightest moon of the year by going up to the Peak and chomping on some Mooncakes while you’re there. If you need ideas, here are my 5 suggestions on what you can do to celebrate this weekend, Monday’s half day, and Tuesday’s full day off.

+ LANTERN FESTIVAL in CAUSEWAY BAY (ends Midnight on Tuesday)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way here. Check out largest sculpture made of Lanterns ever in the world. A huge dazzling fish. This year it will gun for the moniker of the largest sculpture of Lanterns ever made which was chosen out of a few entries in a special design competition held earlier this year.

Notes from the HK Tourism Board:

In the form of a fish, the giant lantern is a whopping (L)37m x (D)9.6m x (W)13m. Up close, visitors will notice that all the scales are Chinese lanterns. The public can enjoy the pulsating colours from both outside and inside the fish.  In Chinese, the word for “fish” has connotations of abundance, leaping forward, and prosperity. It is also synonymous with the word “entertainment”, which includes eating, drinking, and leisure.

A video of the Lantern’s construction:

(VIA DISCOVERHONGKONG)

+ TAI HANG AND THE FIRE DANCE

I was actually going to say that you should explore a (what is now) hip new restaurant and bar district in Hong Kong called Tai Hang, which is located around the Tin Hau MTR Stop. Tai Hang is a little enclave and represents what Star Street was maybe 5 years ago. Cool little shops, coffee bars, and restaurants like Classifieds and PANDA, a pork katsu joint.

This year (like every year), the fire dance will take place at 7:30 from Sunday the 11th to Tuesday the 13th in Tai Hang. So not only can you have a great place to have dinner and drinks with friends, but you’ll get tons of culture to go along with it. Actually the fire dance has been around for over a hundred years since 1880, when Tai Hang used to be a small Hakka Village. A cholera disease infected the small town, until a “Fire Dragon” dance was performed, which miraculously made the decease go away. The dance, has been performed every year on Mid-Autumn ever since.

(via DISCOVERHONGKONG)

+ MOONGAZING HIKE ON THE PEAK

(via FLICKR LECTURAL)

When Hong Kong people want to do outdoorsy stuff they usually go on Hikes. If you’re athletic you can go as far away as the Dragon’s Back. Or you can be like the rest of us and only go as far as Central when you can do a hike up to the Peak. For the Peak, you can go for an easy walk you can go along Lugard or Harlech roads, or begin next to the Peak Station at the Pokfulam Resevoir Road where you can jump start from there to get to the Hong Kong Trail. If you’re looking for a more atheltic jaunt, give a go at Parkview where the Wilson and Hong Kong trails intersect, and you can attempt a hike to Jardine’s Lookout. These Peak Hikes are great now, because A) the views are breathtaking, B) the weather is not so bad and not too hot, and C) its a good way to moongaze, especially when the moon is at its biggest and brightest in the year.

+ WORLD CLASS EXHIBITS

Personally for me, I find staycations during Public Holidays in Hong Kong, a good opportunity to really catch up on travelling shows and exhibits that are in town. Today i’m going to check out the Foster show at the Wanchai Arts Center. On Monday or Tuesday, I’ll most likely take a look at the Gehry Show at Artistree.

RELATED ARTICLE: Foster + Partners, the Art of Architecture

RELATED ARTICLE: Hello Hong Kong. My Name is Frank Gehry.

The Foster show is a way to really sell the Architect and his works to the Hong Kong population who are still unsure of his latest proposal for West Kowloon. The Gehry show is to introduce Gehry to the local public, and to make them familiar with SWIRE’s crazy new residential development on Stubbs Road. But those are the angles. For those who don’t care about angles, HK is pretty lucky to have two full on architectural shows like this, and you dont have to be an architect to really enjoy large scale models and drawings. It’s fun and inspiring at the same time.

+ GO PRIVATE KITCHEN and PRIVATE CHEF, WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS

(via OPENRICE)

Hong Kong opens new snazzy dining joints all the time but for this weekend, maybe you’re looking for something “homier”. If you’re a local, then pretty much your plans are set. You get a banquet or have a feast at home. But if you’re an expat or a visitor, it’s a chance to really treat yourself and see friends and family you may not have seen in a while. Private Kitchens in Hong Kong are quite popular these days because people just don’t have the space to host or entertain large groups in a very “homey” and “intimate” setting. Check out these Private Kitchens for a little reunion or get together in the next few days, for an intimate and non-scene experience with your loved ones. All kitchens require RSVP ahead of time.

(via TBLS)

Liberty Private Works (New American Cuisine) / 5186 3282

Magnolia (American Cajun Food) / 2530 9880

Xi Yan (New Chinese) / 2575 6966

Si Jie Sichuan Dishes / 2802 2250

TBLS Kitchen Studio (Spanish) / 2544-3433 

Ta Pantry (Western with Traditional Chinese Fusion) / 2544-3433 

Yin Yang (Organic Chinese) / 2866 0868 

And you know what, there’s more information out there. Tons. Check out these great articles from the NYTIMES.COM and CNNgo.

And above all else, learn to just enjoy, relax, and be with your friends. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival everyone! :)

JJ.

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Foster + Partners, The Art of Architecture

The opening for the Norman Foster - Foster + Partners, The Art of Architecture show was last night, and from what I heard, the exhibit is quite impressive. All his models and drawings for every project around the world are on display. This is quite a special feat to have it all in one place. Definitely this has something to do with his latest win for the West Kowloon Project. Anyway who wants to go with me? I definitely would love to check it out!

And on September 11 at 7:30PM and September 21 and 22 on 2:30 PM, there is even a movie about him which was released this year called, “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” It’s a free screening as well so I wouldnt miss it!


RELATED ARTICLE: The Hong Kong That Never Was

八月二十七日至九月二十二日 / 香港灣仔港灣道2號 香港藝術中心 包氏畫廊

27 August – 22 September Hong Kong Arts Centre 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai www.hkac.org.hk

JJ.

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Hong Kong That Never Was, 4 Unbuilt Architectural Icons

In March 2011, Sir Norman Foster’s (UK) completely lush and green “City Park” scheme was awarded the full master plan of the West Kowloon Cultural District over OMA (Netherlands) and Rocco (Hong Kong). 

What this win means is that A) there is life and hope once more that this proposed cultural center and its proposed avant garde museum, the M+, will actually be built during my lifetime and B) so continues Hong Kong’s deep rooted love affair with Foster ever since the HSBC Tower and the International Airport.  This love affair however was once on the rocks when Foster was awarded the West Kowloon project for the first time… a monster of glass and steal that preservationists and citizens alike protested at the “inhuman” scale and the unecessary costs it would take to build such a glass canopy.

Which brings me to imagine the “What ifs”… if Foster’s glass canopy was built, then why not Herzog’s Cultural Center in SOHO, or Zaha’s PEAK? It certainly would have been a completely different Hong Kong, a city littered with Architectural wonders the way Shanghai and Beijing stand today.  Would it make a better city? Who knows, but we can dream can’t we.

4 HONG KONG PROJECTS THAT NEVER or HAVE YET TO MATERIALIZE:

1) NORMAN FOSTER’S WEST KOWLOON (Original Scheme 2007) Before “City Park” above there was this monstrous canopy of glass and metal. People questioned the scale of the structure, as well as the heat and cooling that would occur underneath this canopy… and actually what would stand underneath such a structure. Obviously the project was scrapped. via NEWARCHITECTURE

 

2) HERZOG & deMEURON’S CENTRAL POLICE STATION CULTURAL COMPLEX (Original Scheme 2008) Local non profit group HK Jockey Club hired H&dM, Swiss architects, to plan an upgrade and retrofit of the exisiting Central Police Station and transform it into a cultural complex worthy of International performances and exhibits.  Interestingly enough, while the West Kowloon district would have costs to taxpayers, the HK Jockey Club is gifting this project to the city of Hong Kong, and that no expenses to the construction and transfer or operations would be burdened towards tax payers. While many praised the design for being bold and daring, it still paid homage to Hong Kong (Bamboo Scaffolding) while being respectful to the original site (The building only touches about 20-30% of existing historical structures).

Alas residents of high rise towers complained that there would be plenty of noise and light pollution from the vertical structure, and it would block their sea-view thus devaluation of their properties.  The project has been placed on hold. via INSITU

UPDATE as of March 10, 2011, Herzog has updated their design for the Central Police Station. Its now the opposite of its Extroverted First Scheme, and completely low rise, low density, introverted box… a Contemporary Art Space. via INHABITAT

3) Before this monstrosity on the Peak by architects Terry Farrell:

The actual winner of the design competition for a Leisure Club (1983) on this very same spot was Zaha Hadid! (See my previous post about Zaha in Guangzhou.) If Zaha had her way, Hong Kong would have been the site of one of her first structures. Can you spot the project in the picture below?

The program was a leisure club to cater to residents of the Peak, so the program was quite small and didnt include the restaurants Burger King and the shops Hong Kong T-Shirts and the museum Maddam Tussauds Wax Museum, that exists today. Phooey. Other images via Zaha Hadid.

Can we still build this please???

4) Something still under construction… for at least the last 10 years is the Hong Kong Asia Society in Admiralty by architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of New York (1999-present).  Because of land lease issues, and the fact that everything is being produced out of New York… for a non-profit, and the fact that the site incoporates a historical British Military structure, and sits on a sloped site… it makes sense that the project is taking so long to finish. But PLEASE finish it soon. 

I’ve been to a few lectures of theirs where they explain the project, and it seems like a pretty exciting project.  Especially because their American Folk Art Museum in New York City is one of my favorite museums ever in the world.  Their spatial planning and use of materials is simple yet sublime.  Rendering via ASIASOCIETY

Okay time to snap out of it and get back to reality.

x JJ

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