“The city that ate the world”

Has to be in the running for best article headline of the year, and – simultaneously, a Morrison/Ellis story waiting to happen. It’s in fact from a piece by Deyan Sudjic on the singularity of citybuilding that is China, and specifically Beijing:

There are dumps of steel everywhere. So much steel, in fact, that it starts to become only too clear how the Chinese hunger for the metal has pushed up world prices to the point that British construction sites are rediscovering the art of building in concrete. There is enough steel here to explain why Australia has reopened iron-ore mines and why ship brokers have taken bulk carriers out of mothballs from their anchorages in the Falmouth estuary…

By some estimates, half the world’s annual production of concrete and one-third of its steel output is being consumed by China’s construction boom.

Definately worth a read, if just to boggle at the rate of change of the rate of change, conveyed by Sudjic’s personal recollections of his visits to Beijing over the last fifteen years. And also how “starchitects” like Rem Koolhaas frame the somewhat Faustian nature of their work there:

Westerners such as the critic Ian Buruma question the propriety of designing a building that can be seen as endorsing the propaganda arm of a repressive state that tells a billion people what to think. It is criticism which Koolhaas dismisses with growing impatience. ‘Participation in China’s modernisation does not have a guaranteed outcome,’ he told one interviewer. ‘The future of China is the most compelling conundrum, its outcome affects all of us and a position of resistance seems somehow ornamental.’

Resistance Is Ornamental – the cry of the globalist neomodern Borg-in-Prada?

0 thoughts on ““The city that ate the world”

  1. Easy for the rich foreign artiste to say. He certainly wouldn’t be so blasé if he were a Chinese citizen, who are subject to imprisonment and execution for such ornamentation.

    Ultimately however, I agree with him–that *his* work is ornamental. His buildings may give the government a sheen of legitimacy-via-coolness, but the real work is being done all around him. To the extent that Chinese citizens see all this as a reflection of themselves, it may eventually work counter to the CCP’s authoritarianism.

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  3. So, Koolhaas shouldn’t have designed a building for China television because it could (will?) be used for propoganda? You might as well say Gutenberg shouldn’t have built his printing press because the Church would use it to promote their religious control. As we know, the opposite happened: putting the Word in the hands of the masses led to a breakdown of central power.

    Not long ago “modern” Beijing was still a 19th-century city – they are now leaping over the 20th century and planning for the next 100 years – something we have yet to do in the US, if lower Manhattan and New Orleans are any examples.

    Note also that Koolhaas is actively involved in promoting the preservation and integration of Beijing’s remaining “antique” districts.

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