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Urban experiment

Posted by Scott LaPierre  July 31, 2008 09:38 AM

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architecture

What do you get when you combine a) big box retail with b) rapacious, out-of-control, dense urban expansion in the form of soulless glass-box skyscrapers?

You get Central Business District, lovingly referred to as CBD, which is the neighborhood of Beijing we're staying in for a few days. It's a lovely place, lacking human scale, full of faceless offices and gaudy block-wide malls, where the layout is user unfriendly and entrances are hard to find.

And it's growing. Everywhere is the tink-tink-tink of hammers and chisels (actual motorized construction has been halted throughout Beijing during the Olympics to lessen smog levels).

china central square

This is not a diss on Beijing. In my extremely short time here I've visited achingly charming city parks and public spaces. But going for a walk in the CBD is like walking around the outside of an American mall that goes on for miles.

It's also the first place I've ever seen that's managed to take the two great tastes of big-box retail and faceless glass-box skyscraper and show us how great they can taste together:

wal-mart
One of many Wal-Mart skyscrapers

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