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I’m an unabashed fan of tall buildings, high-rises, skyscrapers- whatever you want to call them. Not only do they lend cities a sense of identity by the way a collection of tall buildings can uniquely define a skyline, they also offer occupants a chance to experience urban environments in the elusive z-axis. Residential towers offer the potential to transform neighborhoods into bustling high-density zones of activity. There is arguably no other type of building that defines the current modern era of world architecture better than the skyscraper.

The high-rise building type is not without its calculated risk though, especially when it comes to the issue of safe occupant egress in case of emergency. When tall buildings do fail (a very rare occurrence), the results are sometimes disastrous. One only needs to remember the image of the collapsing World Trade Center Towers in Manhattan to get a grim reminder of the great risk and loss of life skyscrapers can pose. View full post »

Japanese Retail Chain Uniqlo at Chengdu’s Chunxi Lu Shopping Street

After spending the previous two weeks in the U.S. visiting friends and relatives, I returned to chaos in Chengdu last week. Just a few blocks from my apartment, protests were being held at the city’s main shopping street, Chunxi Lu, against Japanese-owned businesses. I had no idea this was going on until I was alerted by my friends over at Chengdu Living who were there documenting the scene with photos and video.

This anti-Japanese demonstration came about due to a recent dispute about the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands in the Pacific. The cultural rift between the two countries goes deeper than that though, with bitter feelings about Japan’s invasion of China during World War II still prevalent among those living in mainland China. View full post »

Tianjin. Photo by Sarmu

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman was in Tianjin earlier this month for the 2010 Summer Davos World Economic Forum. His trip yielded a pair of opinion pieces blasting America for its lagging economic progress in comparison to rising China.

The title of Friedman’s first piece, Too Many Hamburgers?, references a skit produced for the Davos Forum where four children wearing four different flags – Chinese, American, Indian and Brazilian- are about to run a race. The child with the American flag bolts ahead only to lose ground shortly after due to a bout of cramps. The others wonder what is wrong with him until one of them says, “he ate too many hamburgers.” View full post »

Entry shell to the new Chengdu underground metro

October 1st, 2010 will be a momentous day in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu. On this day, the city will inaugurate its first subway line: Line 1. This is significant not only because road traffic is getting increasingly worse in the city and more alternatives for getting around town are much-needed, but also because it represents to the citizens of Chengdu a rite of passage into modern China.

Line 1 of the Chengdu Metro traverses a north-south axis through the middle of the city, reaching from the older neighborhoods in the north to the newly developed high-technology zones in the south. In the center is the Tianfu Square station, where Line 1 and Line 2 are set to converge in the future making it a critical transfer hub. View full post »

CCTV Building in Beijing. Photo by Fred @ SG

German architect Ole Scheeren, a former partner of the Dutch firm OMA and lead designer of the CCTV Building in Beijing, recently announced the establishment of his own architectural practice, Büro Ole Scheeren. This news is significant not only because of the exciting work bound to come out of the new office, but because Scheeren has selected two Chinese cities (Hong Kong and Beijing) as the base for his operations. According to the press release:

In choosing China as the firm’s headquarters, Büro Ole Scheeren demonstrates its commitment to Asia and the region’s acute significance in the worlds of architecture and design.View full post »