Beijing in One Building

Other architects have tried and failed. For 18 years, the site at the corner of Wangfujing and Wusi streets has seen 30 proposals come and go, each bedevilled by the height restrictions and commercial pressures that come from being one of the last major building sites in close proximity to Beijing’s Forbidden City. Now, finally, […]

Posted in: Architecture, Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Interior Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Beijing in One Building , , , ,

New Life in Old Beijing, Part III

This is the final installment in a three-part series on preservation and urban transformation in Beijing’s hutongs. Half a kilometre from Tiananmen Square, an unexpected aroma wafts through the Beijing hutongs: fresh-roasted coffee. The source of that smell is just as surprising. Housed in a two-storey structure that was at various times a government-run printing […]

New Life in Old Beijing, Part II

When I arrived in Beijing on the third day of the Chinese New Year, I was expecting the city to be quiet, and it was, except on Nanluoguxiang, a long alleyway near the Drum and Bell Towers that is lined by small shops, cafés and restaurants. Nanluoguxiang was busy — swarming with people, in fact. […]

New Life in Old Beijing, Part I

Great Leap Brewery in Doujiao Hutong It’s the third day of the Chinese New Year and Beijing is taking a break. Traffic has unjammed itself, department stores are shuttered and bursts of fireworks cut through the cold, dry air. As my taxi passes over the Second Ring Road, the streets are quiet until the Gulou […]

Ma Yansong’s Organic Architecture

Mississauga was as close to a blank slate as Beijing-based architect Ma Yansong could hope for. For more than twenty years, the sprawling city in the suburbs of Toronto has been searching fruitlessly for an identity. Its first attempt came in 1987, when a national design competition produced a post-modern City Hall that resembled a […]

Portraits of Beijing Cyclists

Beijing’s rate of cycling has dropped dramatically over the past two decades, as the economy has developed and more people buy cars. As a result, the city is mired in horrendous gridlock and some of the worst air pollution on earth. But cycling is still an important mode of transport in China’s capital; according to […]

Signs of Peace

San Telmo, Buenos Aires De’anmenwai Dajie, Beijing

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Latin America by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Signs of Peace , , ,

Cabbage Season in Beijing

Beijing, 1994: Mountains of Chinese cabbage — 396 million pounds by the reckoning of the Beijing authorities — began advancing on the capital this month, as one of old Beijing’s agricultural rhythms persists against the onslaught of modern supermarkets and glitzy shopping centers that have sprouted here. Rough-hewn peasants who have been sleeping with their […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Cabbage Season in Beijing , , , , , , ,

Sunday Stroll

Dongzhimen Outer Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing

Posted in: Asia Pacific by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Sunday Stroll , ,

Good Morning, Hutong

Beijing is not a good walking city. Its roads are too wide, its blocks too long — this is a city meant to be experienced on wheels, whether those of a bicycle or (increasingly) a compact sedan. But as Christopher Szabla reminded us earlier this year, “Beijing is at least two cities”: the city beyond […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Good Morning, Hutong , , , ,

A Chilly Fall Day? Perfect for a Swim

The first time I visited Beijing, almost two years ago, I had no idea about the existence of Sichahai, the three interconnected lakes just northwest of the city’s imperial heart. Built more than 800 years ago during the Jin Dynasty, the lakes later became the northern end of the Grand Canal, a 1,700-kilometre waterway that […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Environment, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on A Chilly Fall Day? Perfect for a Swim , , , , ,

Beyond the Second Ring Road

Beijing is at least two cities. There’s the Beijing of the hutongs, a largely low-slung, grayscaled cityscape lying along the occasionally meandering little streets one can find within the old city walls, a one to two kilometer radius of Tiananmen Square. Then there’s the rest of Beijing, a march of high and midrise office and […]

Writing on the Streets

It was late on a chilly March afternoon as I wandered through a small plaza near Houhai Lake in Beijing. The air was struggling to stay above freezing and I shivered in my spring jacket. Looking down, I noticed some Chinese characters drawn in water on the plaza’s grey paving stones. Whoever drew them was […]

Posted in: Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Writing on the Streets , , , , , ,

Dusk in Dongzhimen

Three subway lines, two major expressways, and countless buses converge on Dongzhimen, at the northeastern corner of Beijing’s historic core. At the end of the workday, that makes this transfer point one of the busiest in the city, a whirlwind of streaming throngs. Beijingers usually point their tastebuds toward Dongzhimen to visit Guijie, one of […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Food, Public Space by Christopher Szabla Comments Off on Dusk in Dongzhimen , , , , ,