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Breaking the mold
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Chongqing Library is a work of Perkins Eastman, a leading international design firm that has been involved in high-profile projects in China for 10 years.(Photo Source: China Daily)

"The Olympics is really impacting only one or two out of 100 big cities in China. I think there will be some settling afterwards in Beijing, but all the rest of the cities have very long lists of things they're planning on doing. Shanghai has the World Expo coming up in 2010 and they're just beginning to build that," he adds.

In all, five senior architects spoke about the developments they have worked on and their unique experiences in China. Chien Chung Pei, the middle son of I.M. Pei, presented slides on the creation of China's Suzhou Museum, built in the heart of the old city. The museum's front gate, gardens and ponds were inspired by tradition, with attention to detail and distinctiveness. I.M. Pei assisted in the rock design of the museum, for which granite boulders from Shandong province were imported.

During his presentation, Perkins spoke about projects such as the Shanghai International Medicine Zone (of which Perkins Eastman is the master planner), Huizhou Humao Center and Jinan South City, of which the first phase will be completed this fall. He also spoke of the increasing demand for institutions like the Concordia International School, due to the "fairly large" expat community.

But breaking the mold altogether is part of the fun - part of what makes China an architect's playground, according to Perkins.

In a May 2008 article in National Geographic magazine, Perkins said that as Chinese enterprises search for architectural talent across the globe - "buying 30-40 years of experience they didn't have" - some believe that China has become "the Western architect's weapons testing ground." At the lecture, Perkins gave the example of the one-million square foot Wanliu Shopping Center project as something that would not be feasible to build in the US.

"Couldn't happen in America; it was completed in five years, in the US it would have to be 20 years," he says.

Chris McVoy, a senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, spoke about innovative designs such as the Linked Hybrid housing project in Beijing, which will feature 700 apartments, demonstrate "sustainable urbanism" and reduce the need for auto transport. McVoy showed slides of the structure, which sits on 6.18 hectares and was designed to be geo-thermally heated and cooled (free of boilers and electrical air conditioners), greatly reducing energy consumption.

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