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.

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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.

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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 2011.07.31 // ARCHITECTURE NOW

+ ALILA CHA-AM by Duangrit Bunnag of DBALP / Thailand

Designed by noted Bangkok Based “Starchitect” Duangrit Bunnag of DBALP, the hotel is exactly what one would expect from a full service architect attempting to design “resort” full services style, that is without the aid of a Hospitality Interior Consultant or Proper Landscape Consultants.  The product, all right angles, straight lines, and solid forms, without the plushness one would expect from a 5-star Boutique Hotel of the same price point. READ MORE.

+ECO-ARK by Arthur Huang of MINIWIZ / Taiwan

I dont subscribe to NatGeo Channel, but I may have to support it now that I know in April and May the MegaStructures series will debut their Episode on EcoArk in Asia. What’s MORE interesting than that, is that EcoArk, which was designed for Taipei’s recently finished Taipei International Flora Expo, was designed by Arthur Huang, a Taiwanese Architect, Friend, and School Colleague from Cornell University in New York. READ MORE.

+ OPERA HOUSE IN GUANGZHOU by Zaha Hadid / China

Although the facade looks sloppy and the details are a bit poor at spots, (ahem seat handles)… overall it’s quite an important piece milestone for Zaha, for China, and for the people of Guangzhou who have completely understood the importance of the building for their city, their image, and the impact of such a building to their lives. READ MORE.

+ LINKED HYBRID MIXED USE COMMUNITY IN BEIJING by Steven Holl / China

I must say, I have really lucked out in terms of living arrangement.  The apartment, which I currently reside in is the Dangdai MOMA in Dongzhimen, a eco-sustainable hybrid building designed by American architect Steven Holl, located on the NE corner of the Second Ring Road. The ironic thing is despite being an architect myself, I never thought that I would actually get to live in an architecturally designed house or apartment, so I thank my roommate, Harold for inviting me to stay. READ MORE

+ THE GOUCESTER by A.B. Concepts / Hong Kong

From the entrance, with its screens and dark stone, you can tell that the design’s materials rely on the more subdued palette, buffering the city outside it … enabling you to walk into a “tranquil” environment defined by materials and finishes naturally found in nature. READ MORE.

xJJ

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Living With Design, Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid in Beijing

What is it like to live in a city’s most Architecturally Iconic Development? Contributor, H.Dinh reports to us from Beijing on what it’s like to live in The Linked Hybrid Project (Dangdai MOMA) by American Architect, Steven Holl.    xJJ

I must say, I have really lucked out in terms of living arrangement.  The apartment, which I currently reside in is the Dangdai MOMA in Dongzhimen, a eco-sustainable hybrid building designed by American architect Steven Holl, located on the NE corner of the Second Ring Road. The ironic thing is despite being an architect myself, I never thought that I would actually get to live in an architecturally designed house or apartment, so I thank my roommate, Harold for inviting me to stay.

The Apartment.

Our apartment has two bedrooms, a study room, which Harold uses for work, a gigantic living space with semi open kitchen and luxurious dining spaces.  We each have our own bathrooms and pretty much our own wings to the apartment. There is plenty of space for everyone and that includes Harold’s cat, Maobing.

In terms of scale, the apartment is American/Beijing size.  It is weird having so much space. Coming from my 450 square foot apartment in Hong Kong, the contrast was quite dramatic.  I am reminded of the time when my colleagues and I first came to Beijing on secondment.  The hotels that our companies put us in were ridiculously huge.  My colleagues who grew up in HK freaked out in these apartments and felt scared due to the intense quiet and immense spaces.  Having learnt how to be economical spaces in Hong Kong, I have so much of it now, I really don’t know what to do with it all!

Harold’s kitchen is fully equipped. Amongst all the normal fittings and appliances, we also have an oven, a dishwasher and a garbage disposal machine, how American! The only thing that I feel that I am missing is a George Foreman Grill and some curtains as my bedroom window faces east.  I have resorted to having to use eye masks. 

The Courtyard.

Buildings Connected by Glass Walkways on Upper Floors.

In terms of space, the apartments inside the MOMA are great.  I have no idea how to get to the elevated glass walkways connecting all the towers together.  There is gym and pool somewhere in the development but I have no idea where or whether they are even completed yet. So yeah, in terms of space, it is great but in terms of what’s in the immediate neighborhood, it’s not much.  The nearest restaurants are 10 minutes walk away and there isn’t anything else in the area besides for random Chinese shops.

The Cinema.

The MOMA was designed to be self-sufficient but it doesn’t seem to be working as such (at this point).  The courtyard, as amazing as it looks in design, isn’t as active as it could be.  There are two random/bars cafes but they don’t looks so inviting.  I was hoping for a mini Jianwai SoHo in terms of its vibrancy and diversity in shops and eating establishments but it really is a ghost town.  There is a cinema inside in the courtyard, which is a good start but I guess I will just have to wait until all the other buildings within the development are complete and maybe things will change.

What the Dangdai MOMA lacks in neighborhood character and immediate facilities, it makes up in proximity to cool neighborhoods.  The closest subway station is 15 minutes walk away but on bicycle, you can get there in 5 minutes.  In 10 minutes on bicycle however, you would be able to reach some really cool neighborhoods such as Gulou, Sanlitun and the Workers’ Stadium. With a bicycle, you have so much for freedom as Beijing has such a traffic and public transportation problem.

Dealing with the cat, the quiet neighborhood and the distance to commercial sub-centers did take some time.  I am officially one month into Beijing now and it is beginning to feel like home.  Harold and I are having a ‘house day’ tomorrow where we are going unpack, rearrange and maybe ‘feng shui’ our apartment.  Harold really only moved into the apartment two months before I did so it’ll be a good opportunity for both of us to unpack everything and get the apartment into order to make it into a proper homey abode.

The View.

 

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H.Dinh is an Architect and contributor to theWanderlister+.  In 2011, H.Dinh moved to  Beijing, China for a career sabbatical from Architecture. Follow his updates in China here at theWanderlister+ and join him on his life’s journeys. Email him at  talk2much@witty.com / Topmost image above via FLICKR all other images copyright 2011 H.Dinh

UPDATE: And Because Life works in twos, check out Suraya’s Heart Fairs Blog. She ALSO posted today on a beautiful museum by Steven Holl in China.  Thanks Suraya for the post. xJJ