Day 62(a): Race to the Top

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but maybe it should have waited to take a lesson from the Chinese. It wasn’t exactly a day, but how about 5 days? 5 years? Complete with a working mass transportation system. I thought about how many buildings I could name in Manhattan versus those I could name in Guangzhou. Many vs. one–the hotel where I am staying. What’s going on here?!?

I spent today walking around Guangzhou’s new civic center area after I visited their Guangzhou Provincial Museum (Part b of today’s posting). Initially I was very impressed by the overwhelming volume and size of the buildings. This area included the equivalent of a state museum, an opera house, a park, and a huge library. In the end, I have more questions than answers.

I wanted to go to the Guangzhou Opera House, thinking that it was, well, for Guangzhou Opera. Wrong. Upcoming performances include Angela Georgiou (I wouldn’t have minded) and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. I decided to pass on tonight’s production the Globe’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream for $40, cheapest seats available. So much for my fantasy to revel in those days when I went to Chinese Opera with my mother in Chinatown nearly 60 years ago.

Zaha Hadid Baby got her commission after battling against Rem Koolhaas. I guess her pebbles made a big splash. You can read more about it in

After a visit to the museum, I wandered back to the hotel and many buildings caught my eye. First, in general, by the sheer size and scale. I’m posting some for your enjoyment. It feels like an arms race to the top. Who are they competing against? Other designers? Other companies? The region? Other cities in China? New York? I would love to know.

Second, I got fixated on the rooftop finishing. Having just completed the Neurosciences Building at UCSF, I know it was about mechanical screening. OK, saw a few buildings that did that. Some clearly wanted to reach to the clouds and show their mighty height with spires. Ok, get that one too. And then there are the loop de loops.

Well, you might draw your own conclusions. I get the decorative elements to provide some relief from high rise ennui. But I think I am missing something. These architects have left something out of the obvious reasons for me. Any guesses?!?

It did make me think of the little pitched roofs in Germany and the curious blinking eyes I posted back in August. They were unintentionally playful perhaps, but I am not sure I could call these responses to the transitions to sky exactly “playful”. (By the way, my fixation on cranes is also amply displayed here. They aren’t part of the decorative elements of the rooftops.)

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