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 , , , ,

Hong Kong’s Problem with Heritage

Kowloon Station, 1981. Photo by Loose Grip 99 It’s one of those mid-summer days when it seems impossible to escape the heat, so it comes as a relief to step into the air-conditioned room that houses Sparkle! Can We Live (Together), an oddly-named exhibition that explores the relationship between artists and the communities in which […]

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 […]

Design for All

Sendai Mediatheque. Photo by Tomio Ohashi The building started shaking at 2:46pm. Books tumbled off shelves, magazine racks teetered and ceiling panels swayed violently back and forth like a drunk trying to reclaim his balance. This was the scene in a YouTube video recorded the seventh floor of the Sendai Mediatheque on March 11, when […]

Value Creation

If UABB Hong Kong was greeted by a storm of controversy, its counterpart in Shenzhen went off without a hitch. “Cocktails and happiness! No protest at all!” wrote one participating artist on Facebook. This year, UABB Shenzhen — which bills itself as the “world’s only biennale dedicated exclusively to the themes of urbanism and urbanization” […]

A City on Edge

Protest at the opening of UABB. Photo by Espen Cook Last week in Kwun Tong, Kacey Wong stood inside a burnt wood cocoon, explaining the concept behind his painstakingly hand-made installation. “I wanted to create a place where people could meet quietly and have a greater understanding of what’s going on,” he said. To access […]

The Last Days of 5 Pointz

Even if you don’t follow street art or hip hop, you might have heard the news: 5 Pointz is dead. Technically, the old warehouse in Long Island City is still standing — though it is slated for redevelopment — but its essence as an art space was stripped away in the early hours of November […]

Before Sandy

The sun was burning through morning fog as I walked down Hoyt Street to the subway, the Williamsburg Savings Bank half-shrouded like in some imaginary Gotham. By the time I reached Beach 59th Street, the sky was a deep blue. It was late October, but it felt like summer. I took off my sweater and […]

A Detour in Urban Design

When artist-activist John Bela wandered around Wan Chai, Hong Kong’s melting pot neighbourhood of historic shophouses, packed street markets and hooker bars, he encountered a sense of déjà-vu. “I felt like a prisoner in a cage surrounded by leering cars and trucks,” he says. “This is the case in many cities where traffic engineers have […]

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Ode to an Eyesore

Eaton’s in 1984. Photo by Gregory Melle Columnist Alan Fotheringham called it an “unending urinal wall.” That somehow filtered down to the Vancouver population as “the upside-down urinal” or the “great white urinal.” But the name-calling won’t last for much longer. Next year, the great white windowless box that dominates the corner of Robson and […]

Regrowth or Replacement?

HK Farm. Photo by Glenn Eugen Ellingsen Sweating in the bright Mediterranean sun, Glenn Eugen Ellingsen surveyed a little bit of Hong Kong in Venice. “It’s meant to be very organic,” he said, pointing to an array of wood planters, metal racks, video screens and exposed electrical wires. Ellingsen is one of the founders of […]

Hawker City

Not long ago, I was wandering around Kwun Tong trying to find an Indonesian restaurant. I arrived outside its front door only to find the shutter drawn, with a notice from the Urban Renewal Authority announcing that the property had been acquired for redevelopment. Then I looked around: nearly every storefront on the street was […]