Breakneck pace of construction in Beijing

"Delirious Beijing" in Metropolis Magazine is an evocative account of the unbelievable pace of construction in Beijing in the Olympic run-up; when I was there in September, I was staying in a guest-house in an ancient walled compound dating from the era of the Forbidden City. Next to it was a 40-storey black glass office-tower, with a Rolls, Ferrari and Land Rover dealership (along with a Starbucks selling moon-cakes), and in the space between, shirtless, shoeless men worked all day to shovel mixed rubble and sand (the ruins of another one of the ancient walled compounds) through a chickenwire screen to get the gravel for the cement for another new construction project.

It took a visit to that nondescript addition for me finally to see what is possible when modern technology, capitalist zeal, Communist control, national ambition, and a bottomless unprotected labor pool combine in the service of building. You can get things done. That moment also opened up for me the profound strangeness of the city. The shoulder-to-shoulder towers on the wide ring roads that give each the scale of Las Vegas Boulevard? All brand new. The wooded margins of every highway? The elaborately greened interchanges? All fresh, and all false, every tree imported and planted to mask Beijing’s essential filthiness in advance of the ­coming-out party planned there this summer.

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(via We Make Money Not Art)

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