Posts Tagged ‘architecture’



Galaxy SOHO Lights Up the Beijing Skyline

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

The recently unveiled Galaxy SOHO literally resembles an array of astral objects with its spherical shapes and blazing lights. It now looms above Beijing’s second ring road. It is supposed to represent a big step forward in architecture and its capability to inspire. Zaha Hadid, the chief architect, made an appearance at the launch with a long talk about the space and the possibilities it represents. A strong sense of hope for the future of Chinese design and fashion filled the air. Translating this into viable products and businesses is the real difficulty, though. Galaxy SOHO is certainly an inspiring place for such imaginative pursuits with its elegant curves and charged globular structures. There are excellent lines of site throughout the complex. But are there enough clientele to actually fill it up and create an active and engaging community? Galaxy SOHO is huge: 330,000 square meters of office and retail space. Plus it sits atop one of the most trafficked intersections in Beijing. Right now Sanlitun SOHO is barely filled, let alone Galaxy SOHO which sees less pedestrian traffic and intense gridlock. I will keep tabs on the complex in the coming months. Hopefully it does not turn into a huge empty space like the many others popping up around the city.

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.



    Counterfeit Paradises in GEO France

    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Chateau Montaigne

    My Counterfeit Paradises series made made a strong appearance in GEO France this summer. Fourteen pages of shanzhai awesomeness. The magazine commissioned me to shoot all of my favorite ersatz European developments around China. This is only part of the Counterfeit Paradises oeuvre as China’s grand development strategies continue to spread at an unrelenting pace. The series explores the cracks in “harmonious” cities coming into being throughout China, as well as sites of leisure and luxury now enjoyed by the urban elite. This nouveau riche partake in an imagined space of contentment and growth even as a gap widens between the promising rhetoric espoused by municipal governments regarding urban planning and actual implementation. This fantastical future plays out in many spaces including newfangled urban districts, cultural institutions, amusement parks, and themed residential developments. In practice, many remain underused, fanciful but alien terrains. Most of the hopes and dreams woven into this urban fabric remain false in nature. These are only a smattering of the many Counterfeit Paradises in China.

    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Tianducheng
    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Florentia Village
    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Little Holland
    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Thames Town
    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Weimar Town
    Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Broad Corporate Campus



      “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction” – Visions of Modernity in Foreign Policy

      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction Clipping

      Foreign Policy’s current issue on urban development focuses almost exclusively on China. Relying on research by the McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine delves into the 75 fastest developing metropolises on the planet, 29 of which are in China (Shanghai and Beijing top the list, respectively). It is well worth perusing the actual magazine, which features photographs from my Visions of Modernity project, and delves into the serious ramifications of China’s ambitious infrastructure projects. Many of these unprecedented developmental efforts appear more and more misguided. My panorama of clustered residential developments surrounding the Huilongguan subway stop in northern Beijing, seen above, accompanies a piece entitled Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction. The article investigates many of the issues I explore in Visions of Modernity, the foremost being the unsustainable nature of urban planning in China and how it effects consumer, transportation and leisure habits.

      The Foreign Policy website also features a series from Visions of Modernity where I documented Ikea customers in Beijing who partake in leisurely afternoons settling into faux showrooms scattered throughout the store. Each photograph suspends the shoppers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own homes. Such nascent nesting and consumer habits are catalyzed by the proliferation of individualized apartments in towering residential developments. These are known as megablocks and have become the cornerstone of Chinese urban planning. The monotonous and imposing structures dominate metropolises across China, forming urban islands that extinguish any sense of fluidity within cities. Although Foreign Policy delves into transportation and architectural projects that give some cause for optimism, such stratagems simply don’t exist on a scale to keep up with the massive urban migration China is experiencing and the concomitant demands on natural resources and energy. In many ways, I must agree with Ai Weiwei’s dark assessment of the plight of China’s cities. It can all seem very bleak. More panoramas of Beijing from Visions of Modernity are below.

      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks



        “Building the American Dream in China” for The New York Times Magazine

        Matthew Niederhauser's opening spread for "Building the American Dream, In China" in The New York Times Magazine

        I finally got an opportunity to shoot for The New York Times Magazine. They sent me to Harbin with Daniel Gillen, a young American architect who transplanted to Beijing to ride the wave of audacious infrastructure projects being built across China. He currently works for MAD, founded by Ma Yansong and one of the leading domestic firms in China. Over the past few years MAD was tapped to build a number of cultural centers and museums in their consistently curvilinear style, including the recently completed Ordos Museum and the China Wood Sculpture Museum that I photographed in Harbin. Unfortunately these grand architectural flourishes are usually just showpieces in much larger megablock developments – a small nod to innovation amongst a greater sea of mundane urbanity. Whether or not they actually see any use is still in question. In an ideal world they will become centers of creativity, but in the meantime, Daniel Gillen is only there to build them.

        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses underneath the Harbin Cultural Island.
        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.
        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

        MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses inside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.



          Shanghai Awakes: White+ on The Bund

          The Pudong skyline at dawn in Shanghai, China.

          This is a bit of an oddity. I would go so far as to call it an accidental music video. Last September I ended up on The Bund at dawn in Shanghai. This should happen at least once in your lifetime. Ostensibly I was there to photograph a performance by the talented and capable Olek, whose crocheted work I first encountered in New York City this past summer. After she failed to initiate a crocheting enterprise, thanks to the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, I stuck around and watched the sun rise in all its glory over the imposing Pudong skyline. Slowly but surely the entire city awoke around me. My favorite part are the old guys walking backwards for exercise. I find their physicality a strangely fitting metaphor for the urban development occurring around them. It was a beautiful sight. I mashed up the video from that morning with a live performance of White+ recorded at the now defunct D-22. Check out the results below.

          The bull on the bund at dawn in Shanghai, China.



            An Empty Chinese Metropolis in Conde Nast Traveler

            Matthew Niederhauser's photograph of the Ordos Museum appears in Conde Nast Traveler.

            One of my photographs from the amazingly ridiculous Kangbashi district in Ordos was featured in Conde Nast Traveler this past month. The building shown is the Ordos Museum designed by MAD architects, one of the preeminent Chinese architecture firms founded by Ma Yansong who previously toiled as a project designer for Zaha Hadid Architects. The building itself remains a wonder to behold as its irregular shape clashes with the geometrical grid that binds the rest of the newfangled district. Whether or not it will see any use is the real question now that it finally opened. The municipal government can barely get people to stay put in the Kangbashi residential developments, let alone consistently fill up over 40,000 square meters of exhibition space. The flagship cultural center of Ordos will probably accumulate more sand from the Gobi desert than actual visitors. Anyway, I will be featuring more photographs of MAD buildings in the near future thanks to my first assignment with The New York Times Magazine. In the meantime, you can check out some extra photographs I took of the unfinished interior.

            The unfinished interior of the Ordos Museum

            The unfinished interior of the Ordos MuseumThe unfinished interior of the Ordos Museum



              Beijing’s Infinite Loop: Ole Scheeren and the CCTV Tower

              Ole Scheeren stands beside his greatest creation, the CCTV Tower in Beijing

              As many of you may know, I am a huge fan of the CCTV Tower in Beijing’s Central Business District. In my excitement that they finally turned on the lights in the soaring loop of a skyscraper, I scouted out locations and posted shots of it igniting the skyline. A few months later, as fortune would have it, I received an assignment to photograph Ole Scheeren, the former parter of Rem Koolhaas at OMA and mastermind behind the design and construction of the CCTV Tower. Basically I got to sneak around the new offices of Ole Scheeren in Jianwai Soho and then pose him in front of his awesome edifice. In the end, I used the same locations from the night shoot to photograph Ole Scheeren with the CCTV Tower. Unfortunately I was not allowed to photograph any models of his upcoming projects which were amazing. Ole himself was very affable during the shoot and is no stranger to the camera thanks to his high-profile, paparazzi-trailed relationship with actress Maggie Cheung. A looker and dresser, Ole made sure he was properly attired for the occasion and rocked a formidable Blue Steel. The clippings are from the article in the newly minted Port Magazine out of London.

              Ole Scheeren sits in his office overlooking the Central Business District in Beijing



                Indonesian Dispatches: The Mighty Borobodur

                Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia

                My trip to Indonesia in February was not all hardcore concerts and overnight buses. I was fortunate enough to take a day or two off from touring to check out some of the country’s cultural splendor. For years I wanted to visit the 9th-century Buddhist monument, Borobudur. Over the past decade I have been able to photograph most of the great Buddhist archeological sites in China, Mongolia, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Borobudur surely ranks as one of the most celebrated and lived up to many of my expectations, even if it did not quite match the scale of Angkor Wat or Bagan. Still, the massive pile easily exhibits some of the greatest relief sculpture in Southeast Asia. The 2,672 panels that wind their way to the top stupa intricately depict mythological stories as well as scenes from daily life. It is not often you get the chance to peer back one thousand years into the milieu of an ancient civilization. Check out some of the pictures below to see the depth and detail of their work. They were truly exquisite.

                Carving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia

                Carving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia

                Carving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia

                Carving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in IndonesiaCarving from Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia



                  CCTV Headquarters Lights Up the Beijing Skyline

                  The CCTV Tower lights up the Beijing sky at night

                  This is just a small note to all the CCTV Headquarters enthusiasts out there. The night time is now the right time to check out the stunning building. After sitting in the dark for the past few years, the authorities that be finally turned the lights on the CCTV Headquarters. Its smaller sister, the Television Cultural Center which was supposed to house the Beijing Mandarin Oriental Hotel, still sits in ignoble darkness as repairs begin after the devastating fire that gutted the building last year. For now I must only enjoy half the CCTV complex lighting up the Beijing skyline.

                  The CCTV Tower lights up the Beijing sky at night



                    Shanghai World Financial Center: Peeping Pudong Urban Sprawl

                    The observation deck for the Shanghai World Financial Center on the left is situated on the 100th floor

                    The Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is a marvel to behold. Rising above the equally impressive Jin Mao Tower, its graceful arches reach 101 stories, the second-tallest building in the world. The SWFC also ranks as number one for the highest occupied floor in the world, beating out the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and sports the world’s tallest observation deck. The Observatory Bridge runs along the top of the trapezoidal opening near the apex of the SWFC and offers generous views of Shanghai on all sides. During my trip earlier this month, I picked a particularly clear day to visit. The light hitting the Pudong side was the best and offered uninhibited views of the vast urban sprawl that now characterizes the edges of Shanghai.

                    Urban sprawl in Pudong from the top of the Shanghai World Financial CenterUrban sprawl in Pudong from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center

                    Urban sprawl in Pudong from the top of the Shanghai World Financial CenterUrban sprawl in Pudong from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center





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