Beijing Air Terminal Goes All Out for the Games
BEIJING — Beijing airport’s new Terminal 3 — twice the size of the Pentagon — is the largest building in the world.
Adorned with the colors of imperial China and a roof that evokes the scales of a dragon, the massive glass- and steel-sheathed structure, designed by the renowned British architect Norman Foster, cost $3.8 billion and can handle more than 50 million passengers a year. The developers call it the “most advanced airport building in the world,” and say it was completed in less than four years, a timetable some believed impossible.
It opened in late February with little fanfare, but also without the kind of glitches that plagued the new $8.7 billion terminal at Heathrow in London, a project that took six years to complete.
This is the image China would like to project as it hosts the Olympic Games this summer — a confident rising power constructing dazzling monuments exemplifying its rapid progress and its audacious ambition.
While much of the world has focused on protests trailing the Olympic torch, China’s poor human rights record, its pollution, product safety and child labor scandals, workers here have been putting the finishing touches on one of the biggest building programs the world has ever seen.
Beijing hopes to overcome these negatives, and the dark sides of its roaring economy, by emphasizing its ability to upgrade and modernize, at least when it comes to buildings and infrastructure projects. The main Olympic stadium, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, is already widely admired for its striking appearance and its use of an unusual steel mesh exterior. The nearby National Aquatics Center, known as the Water Cube, is a translucent blue bubble that glows in the dark.
And east of the main Olympic arenas, construction is winding down on the new headquarters of the country’s main state television network, China Central Television, or CCTV.
That $700 million building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, consists of two interlocking Z-shaped towers that rise 767 feet and may be the world’s largest and most expensive media headquarters.
New York has the Chrysler Building, Grand Central and the Guggenheim Museum; Paris has the Louvre and the Pompidou Center; now Beijing is determined to build its own architectural icons.
“Beijing is a huge experimental site right now,” says Zhu Wenyi, dean of the school of architecture at Tsinghua University. “This modern architecture is the identity of modern China.”