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Posts tagged “廣州

CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China

Our last day in Guangzhou was dedicated to the contemporary architecture at Zhujiang New Town again.  The night before, we had a brief visit of the area to check out Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, Rocco’s Guangdong Museum, and Nikken Sekkei’s Central Library illuminated with dramatic lights.  The next day we returned to check out the interior of these buildings.

The first stop we made was Guangzhou Opera House.  We joined a 1.5 hour guided tour that took us into the a number of the major spaces in the complex, from the main auditorium to practice rooms.  While the interior spaces of the Opera House were visually impressive, the uncounted design and construction deficiencies and traces of poor maintenance were all difficult to ignore.  Nevertheless, Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House still stood out as the most unique architecture we saw in Guangzhou.

Not far from the Opera House stood the new Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese design firm Nikken Sekkei.  Completed in 2013, Guangzhou Library is a neatly detailed and designed public building.  Once got in, we were immediately overwhelmed by the large and airy atrium and the glassy link bridges overhead.  We wandered in the library briefly before moving over to the Guangdong Provincial Museum.  Opened in 2010, Rocco Design Architects’ museum building is a mega-scale Chinese treasure box.  Similar to the library, the main atrium space of the museum offered a pleasant surprise for us.  A single footbridge high up overhead created a dramatic visual impact.  To our disappointment, we then discovered that it was blocked off from public access as soon as we reached the bridge.  The permanent collection of the museum presented the rich heritage of various regions in Guangdong.

It was late afternoon by the time we left Guangdong Museum.  We rushed to the Guangzhou East Station for our direct intercity train back to Hong Kong.  Overall our three-day trip was a pleasant introduction to the heritage of Guangdong Province.  Seeing the photogenic diaolous in Kaiping County was especially interesting for us.  Perhaps one day we would return to Kaiping at a different season, such as early spring when yellow mustard flowers blanketed the fields under the shadow of the century-old watchtowers.

01From the metro station, we made a short walk underground before ascending to the ground level.  At almost 600m, the Canton Tower played well as an urban icon for us to orient ourselves.

02Approaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the reflective pool.

03The triangular ceiling coffers and curved concrete walls reminded me of Hadid’s other projects,

04The ceiling motif did remind me of Hadid’s Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany.

05Bronze statue at a stair landing that led to the underground parking level.

06The magnificent main auditorium of Guangzhou Opera House.

07Cool light troughs filled up the walls and ceiling of the music practice room.

08The wavy ceiling and wall treatment of the dance studio was another highlight of our guided tour.

09Interior circulation space in the Opera House on the upper levels.

10During daytime, the building structure and facade details could be closely examined by visitors.

11Overall view of the Opera House.

12Atrium of the smaller concert hall in the Opera House complex.

13Approaching the Guangzhou Manmade Library.

14Central atrium of the Guangzhou Library.

15Rocco’s Guangdong Museum resembled an enlarged Chinese treasure box.

16The museum atrium was a remarkable design.

17New kinds of materials were used in the museum project.  The overall experience of the space was centred at the flying bridge high above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors leaving the Guangdong Museum, with Hadad’s Opera House at the back.

19The entrance path of the museum provided a nice urban playground.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China

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SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China

Waking up on Shameen (Shamian) Island almost made us forget that we were traveling in China.  This unique urban sandbank is a historical gem in the City of Guangzhou.  Shameen (Shamian) Island, which literally means “sand surface island” in Chinese, was a foreign concession in the 19th century, where expats from the West lived and worked.   About a quarter of the island was the French Concession, while the British occupied the rest.  Other than trading companies, Shameen Island was also populated with foreign consulates.  In the political and social turmoil of the 20th century, Shameen Island had gone through a number of transformations.  At one point, churches and mansions were  converted into factories during early years of the Communist rule.  Today, most of the foreign establishments were gone, and many buildings have been restored to their former glory.  While factories no longer existed on the island, hotels, cafes and government offices have found their way onto Shameen Island.

For us, Shameen Island was our temporary base in Guangzhou.  Our hotel was housed in a renovated old mansion erected during the concession era.  Comparing to the busy and crowded urban areas of Guangzhou, Shameen Island seemed like a quiet enclave of Western mansions, shaded boulevard and century-old trees.  A number of Western architectural styles could be found on the island, such as Gothic and Neoclassical.  Vehicular access to the island was controlled, thus maintaining the relatively clean air and peaceful atmosphere.  In the morning, joggers and bikers took onto the central boulevard for exercise.  Before heading out to the downtown, we had a quick stroll at Shameen to absorb the tranquil atmosphere and warm morning sunshine.

16Shameen Island is bounded four sides by canal and the Pearl River.

17The island could only accessed by bridges.

15Vehicles are restricted to only the perimeter of the island.

06Government departments had moved into some of the old mansions at Shameen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPleasant balconies and terraces could be seen allover at Shameen.

09Statues could be found at many pedestrian nodes at Shameen.

05Neoclassical building and drying laundry created an interesting picture of living at Shameen.

01Morning joggers exercised at the tree-shaded boulevard.

02Shameen is popular for bikers and pedestrians.

03Part of the central boulevard has been converted into a running track.

07Badminton was also a popular game seen at Shameen.

08Badminton at Shameen.

13Elderly people also wandered around Shameen in early morning.

14Other than a place for physical exercises, Shameen has also become a popular spot for portrait photography.

04Bank of Taiwan, closed in 1949 when the Kuomintang government moved to Taiwan after its defeat by the Communists.DSC_6202Front door of the Bank of Taiwan.

DSC_6311Former Canton Club is one of the most impressive building mansions.

12The former Asiatic Petroleum Building and German Consulate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of Western mansions had been transformed into cafes and restaurants.

 

 
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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China

Other than Kaiping diaolous, another reason for our 3-day excursion from Hong Kong was to check out Guangzhou’s contemporary architecture.  After arriving in Guangzhou by long distance bus, we took the city’s metro to Shamian Island (沙面島) to check in at our hotel and had a Cantonese meal.  Before calling it a day, we rushed out again to explore the new central business district to see its flamboyant buildings at night.  Soon we arrived at Zhujiang New Town Metro Station and walked towards the Opera House.

In a distance, the Guangzhou Tower on the south side of Pearl River aligned perfectly with the strip of public plaza that marked the central axis of Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城), the new central business district of Guangzhou.  Along both sides of the axis, new commercial towers lined up like soldiers queuing from afar all the way to the Pearl River.  Before reaching the river, three public buildings stood out, the Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, Guangdong Provincial Museum by Rocco Design Architects, and Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid.

01Reaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House from its back.

02A ramp flanked by stone walls of the opera house expressed a sense of urban fluidity.

03The craftsmanship and the maintenance of the stone cladding were far from ideal.

04Similar to many other cities around the world, The Phantom of the Opera has become a popular musical with lots of sold out shows.

05Main hall of Guangzhou Opera House with Guangzhou IFC at the rear.

06The upper plaza of the Opera House has become a hotspot for photos.

07The Guangzhou Library by Nikken Sekkei was another interesting building in the area.

08Cool facade treatment expressed horizontality and layering.

09Rocco’s Guangzhou Museum presented a sense of mystery.

10The semi-outdoor stadium on an island in the Pearl River.

12Guangzhou Tower with colouful lighting effect.

13Guangzhou IFC and the axial plaza.

14Visitors enjoyed themselves on the floor feature lighting.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China

Throughout history, there has been a number of periods when Western influences played a role to enrich the architectural developments in China.  However, despite occasional outside influences and technological refinements from dynasty to dynasty, the evolution of Chinese architecture remained relatively consistent in terms of its structural principles, construction techniques, planning strategies, and overall aesthetics.  This remained so until drastic social changes took place in recent two centuries when first China was forced to open its doors to the West in the 1800s, and second when modern China welcomed the new ideas of urban development, international commerce, and contemporary living in recent two decades.  Only hours of bus ride from Hong Kong, the County of Kaiping and City of Guangzhou are two great places to examine how Western influences came to fuse with local habits in defining Chinese architecture that reflect the unique values of two distinct eras.

Four hours of bus ride connects Hong Kong to Kaiping (開平), a county in the Chinese Province of Guangdong.  We left Hong Kong early in a Friday morning by bus, and arrived in Kaiping at around lunchtime.  We spent a little over a day exploring the Kaiping area, visiting a few of its photogenic villages and diaolous (碉樓) or fortified towers, and the splendid architecture and atmospheric colonnaded streets of the town of Chikan (赤坎鎮).  On Saturday, we took a two-hour bus from Kaiping to Guangzhou, the cosmopolitan provincial capital of Guangdong or Canton (廣州) where we stayed for the second night at its unique Shamian Island (沙面島), a small sandbank island where once controlled by the British and French during the 19th century.  Lastly, we spent much of Sunday in Guangzhou visiting some of its flamboyant architecture built recently.

Before 2007, few other than photography enthusiasts in Hong Kong and Guangdong knew about Kaiping.  After some villages of diaolous were inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Kaiping gradually became a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists.  Since the Ming Dynasty, villagers in Southern Guangdong built fortified towers to safeguard their properties from bandits.  But it wasn’t until the turning of the 20th century when villagers of the area erected all kinds of towers with a mix of architectural styles from all around the world that Kaiping diaolous became such a unique phenomenon found nowhere else in China.  The phenomenon revealed Kaiping’s close connections with the outside world.  Many families in Kaiping had members either studied, worked, or even moved abroad at the turning of the century.  Popular destinations of the exodus included United States, Canada, Australia, and Southeast Asia.  Many of these emigrants settled abroad, but returned to Kaiping from time to time.  Many of them returned with foreign design ideas, postcards of Western mansions, or even architectural drawings to build towers full of personal tastes.  Some would even imported building materials from Hong Kong or abroad for tower construction.  Local contractors, on the other hand, would use their imagination and interpretation to construct the towers based on the limited information provided by the property owners living abroad.  As a result, a unique mixture of Western design and traditional Chinese craftsmanship formed the basis for diaolou’s construction.  At its peak, over 3000 diaolous were erected in Kaiping.  Today, there are about 1800 survived.

Guangzhou or Canton, on the other hand, has always been a vibrant city in China.  It is the third largest city in the country, after Shanghai and Beijing.  Historically Canton was the most important trading hub between China and the outside world.  Since the arrival of Portuguese traders in the 17th century, a romanticized Canton was once the sole source of imagination for the Western world to comprehend the Chinese civilization.  In modern times, Guangzhou gradually regained its former glory in recent decades as China reopened its doors to the world.  With its close proximity to Hong Kong and strategic location at the core of Southern China’s manufacturing heartland, Guangzhou once again came under international spotlight with its new iconic buildings.

02It felt like going back in time when we first arrived at the town of Chikan (赤坎鎮), the transportation hub for most travelers visiting the villages of Kaiping.

03Zili Village (自力村) is dotted with diaolous (碉樓) or fortified towers.  The village has become famous domestically ever since a number Chinese movies and television shows were filmed here.

07Set in the midst of bamboo groves, the diaolous at Majianlong Village (馬降龍村) create another atmospheric scene of unique architecture.

09Jinjiangli Village (錦江里村) has the tallest diaolou in entire Kaiping.

DSC_6105Arriving at Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城) of Guangzhou (廣州) from Kaiping was like going to the future.

10A Sunday morning stroll in Guangzhou’s Shamian Island (沙面島) felt like walking in a relaxing European town.

11Contemporary architecture reshaped the skyline and character of Guangzhou in recent years.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China