Beijing’s Olympic Development Feels a Little Too Familiar For Some


The wildest dreams of the Chinese government will soon be realized as they near completion on the new downtown made exclusively of stadiums, each topped by no less than a dozen high-rise hotels, ringed by bars wrapped in restaurants encased in malls, and connected by gigantic bathrooms filled with acres upon acres of stalls, and so many sinks, mind you, that each person will have one per hand. Or so it seems when reading stories like this Newsweek article about Beijing development in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. Some say it’s like Paris, when Baron Haussmann realigned the tiny streets into les grands boulevards. But some can’t help but see hints of another city that hosted the games not too long ago–something Mia Farrow has already courteously pointed out to us.

That’s just not true, says the architect Albert Speer Jr., son of…uh, yeah, that guy:

For others, Beijing’s radical rebuild smacks of totalitarian-power architecture, akin to the grandiose but unrealized blueprints of Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect. But Albert Speer Jr. disagrees. The younger Speer–also a prominent German architect–recently redesigned a central eight-kilometer-long strip running from the center of the Forbidden City north to the new Olympic green. Mandated by imperial feng shui masters, this has been Beijing’s heart for centuries. Speer says his scheme is a paean to the city’s tradition, not a power trip–despite being “bigger, much bigger” than his father’s “megalomaniac” design for New Berlin.

So Speer Jr. is into ‘bigger, much bigger,’ but not ‘megalomaniac big.’ Because there is a difference.