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Expat's Eye
UPDATED: January 29, 2014 NO.6 FEBRUARY 6, 2014
Looking Up in Beijing and Beyond
By Aaron A. Vessup

The new CCTV Tower (IC)

Most travelers these days will be quick to reveal exciting places they have just returned from, or destinations toward which they are heading, that have promised to be the "Big Dream" of all vacation spots with unforgettable structural edifices to boot. Spell-binding are these architectural designs, ancient or modern, drawing skylines to reflect man's creative answers to engineering challenges guaranteed to knock your socks off. At least your mind will more likely than not be in awe of these unforgettable visual sights.

No doubt visiting Tiananmen Square in Beijing, you have already found the silver-domed National Center for the Performing Arts, with its surrealistic surrounding reflection pool, to be enchanting. If you are the inquisitive type, your legs have already suffered from trekking around the Forbidden City. However, you may be tempted to try something in this vicinity a bit more contemporary, like the Chinese Museum of Women and Children near the South Railway Station. The museum has several levels and its cutting edge artistic appearance admits light and shadows in a myriad of mysterious ways. Encountering this edifice definitely addresses the fact of many creative landmarks on the Chinese mainland dramatically, competing proudly with Western constructions.

Beijing has many more examples of architectural intrigue beyond the modern performance center, even beyond the new CCTV Tower that resembles pants legs that some locals have dubbed "the underwear building." More aesthetically pleasing could be the recently completed Galaxy SOHO structure, which connotes a collection of curvaceous "beehives" in outer space, harboring unique underground shopping locations and fascinating directions of sunlight.

Close to this not-to-be-missed visual experience, the Parkview Green Mall, a structure closely resembling a tilting steel and glass pyramid. Inside this building are slanting ramps, elevators, and complex escalators making accessible a wide variety of high-end shopping locations, galleries, museums, sculpture exhibitions, and wonderful eateries. Topping this is a comfortable cinema with the most recent bilingual movies. Parkview Green Mall is a most unusual architectural sight located in close proximity to The Place shopping plaza which boasts being the world's largest outdoor overhead video screen.

About one mile away is the Phoenix International Media Center, a metallic Web-like "Donut" bearing a unique complex of swirling metal and glass.

Of course, there are other proud contributors to Beijing's innovative looking skyline to be seen in other districts. My advice is, however, search and point your eyes upward. And while you're at it, do not overlook the Solana Mall known to Beijing taxi drivers as "Lucky Street." Here, several fascinating buildings flank the northern and eastern sides of this mall, including a unique structure akin to the planet Saturn or an oyster shell, visible from across the Lotus Lake that snakes in and around the Sun Park, with its plentiful amusements for kids of all ages, situated in the background. For the research-oriented, discovering inquisitive skylines can become visually rewarding when you see the National Library of China building making a sophisticated statement of its own.

For those who may be sports minded, venturing out to the Olympic Green Park need not be limited to viewing the Bird's Nest and Water Cube. Actually, an evening view of the Olympic Tennis Center which is situated within the confines of Olympic Park, clearly resembles a precious colorful gemstone prominently set against the horizon.

All these wonders can easily claim to overshadow the simple, or complex international embassy structures that many Beijingers routinely accept. On the off chance that you have been smitten by the arresting images gracing the landscape of this capital city, you may be motivated to venturing to see other provinces that also hold mysterious visual architectural promises. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will certainly be in for more surprises that, in my opinion, come extremely close to surpassing the notability and nobleness of Shanghai's Oriental Pearl.

Beyond all of this, bear in mind these contemporary structures were penned, penciled, and or inked in original draft forms on paper, the very ancient material said to have originated nowhere else but in China. The advice here is: start making your own customized things-to-see list adding a few, if not all, of the above draftsmen's wonders. Remembering, you are not on Mars, the moon or Saturn, but these places could be mere way stations in new frontiers. You will find that creative dreams really do move from paper to becoming proud realities in China!

The author is an American living in Beijing

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