Archive for December, 2007

Life rendered more interesting.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I’ve been photographing SOM’s Beijing Financial Street for a few years now and it’s quite a remarkable transformation of the several city blocks of hutongs it replaced. Our first shoot involved the facades and interiors of two perimeter buildings while the vast majority of the remaining site was still a rather large but inspiring, hole in the ground.The whole development is now nearing completion and includes a landscaped plaza, two five-star hotels, several major office buildings, a sizable retail mall and an endless supply of neighbouring apartments.

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The odd thing though, is that it really doesn’t feel like Beijing. Or at least the Beijing I was familiar with. Tree-lined streets, laid out in a grid pattern, dense low-scale structures…

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I mention this not as a criticism of the design, merely a reflection on the experience of walking around the site. I didn’t feel like I was in China. It must be said that the various areas within the site are doing exactly what they were supposed to. That is, the large open parkland draws local families and visitors with activities, plenty of public seating and an impressive water fountain (well, for the first twenty times you see it). The curved avenue of retail outlets and eateries are buzzing at lunch with the surrounding corporate employees and the luxury hotels add an ever-changing international face to the passing crowds.

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There are several viewpoints in particular where the experience takes on a strange hyper-reality. At these moments it is possible to look around an almost full 360° and see nothing that wasn’t designed by SOM. To all intents and purposes, I could have been standing in a giant 3D rendering.

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In that sense, it was one of the most successful large scale projects I have seen come to fruition. Everything, well almost everything, was where it should be according to the renderings. The trees, the building, the cars, the signs, the people. Just so.

Life imitating art.

Food for Thought

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

There’s nothing like discussing the shoot over dinner. Literally.

In preparing to shoot exteriors of the National Grand Theatre of China in Beijing, Yan and I couldn’t help but take advantage of the plastic food containers in the local food hall. Excellent for figuring out sun angles, reflection and a general plan for the following day’s shoot.

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Must see CCTV.

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

At first glance, one could be forgiven for thinking that Godzilla was taking on his own evil twin in a last ditch battle to save the stricken Earth….

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The equally improbable truth was that the two towers on the CCTV Headquarters project in Beijing were finally joining up.

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Amazingly clear weather in Beijing provided the opportunity to access the neighboring World Trade Center 3 tower (designed by Brian Lee at SOM, who’s New Poly Plaza we photographed recently). The red arrow marks the approximate level of the floor we were shooting from. Somewhere near Floor 56 or 57.

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While the views from what will be the tallest building in Beijing were truly spectacular, the icy winds which had blown all the pollution away kept the temperatures well below zero, keeping our time up there to a minimum.

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The scale of the project is a little hard to grasp from street level as the main structure is set so far back from the road and behind quite tall hoardings. Walking back away from the site starts to provide some comparative scale. It’s then you start to appreciate just how huge the building really is.

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