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Architecture Sun Aug 03 2008

Chicago & Beijing - Opposites on the Globe and on Olympic Plans

The Chicago Tribune architecture writer, Blair Kamin, features an article contrasting Beijing's Olympic architectural strategies to those proposed by the Chicago 2016 team.

Beijing's Olympic architectural identity can probably best be understood under the influence of some significant hallucinogenics. Seriously though, as Kamin explains, China's federal funding free-for-all has allowed the Beijing 2008 committee to complete some of the most aggressive building projects conceived. For instance, the swimming pavilion is appropriately nicknamed the "Water Cube" as it is covered by advanced plastics stretch of a metal frame. The various structures portray such a surreal quality that it is difficult to convince your eyes that the images is not a poorly executed photoshop project and are, in fact, real places. One has to wonder if the effort to display these buildings as evidence of an emerging "Chinese" style of modern life will play as anything more than a series of fantastical exhibits in what is, regardless of the Olympics, a growing center of urban culture.

Chicago's Olympic plans focus significantly on stitching patches into areas of a broken urban fabric. Rather than emphasizing marquee, sparkling buildings, the 2016 committee is taking its impetus from the Barcelona Olympic games well-documented rejuvenation. Infrastructure improvements, conversions to public housing and the expanding of access to the lakefront are all parallels to the highly successful Catalonian games. As Kamin correctly points out, these vital efforts are often completed without the pizzaz and architectural star-power of an abstract, net-like stadium.

While Beijing's Olympic operation is actually quite separate from the healthy collection of marquee buildings the city already possesses, the Chicago proposal calls for highlighting the existing beauty of the lakefront skyline. While the skyline would serve as a beautiful backdrop, the IOC's technical review of Chicago 2016's plan states, quite clearly, that the excitement factor for the Chicago 2016's building and transportation program leaves quite a bit wanting.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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