Thursday, June 17, 2004

Beijing Buildings and Air

Before I left for China I did not look at any pictures of what Beijing would look like. I had assumed that it would look like any other big city in America and Japan, so I didn't think I'd be too surprised when I got there. I forgot that China was still a third world, developing country, with buildings reflecting that. Actually, the buildings don't reflect anything because most of made out of brick, not glass. Brick and tile are the most common materials used for buildings of all kinds. Residential, commercial, government, and just about everything else was brick or tile. My guess, brick/tile insulates better by keeping the cool air in and the warm air out during the summer, and vice versa in the winter. It's much cheaper to that way.

However, there were some buildings that were made of glass, only there was something different about them. Some of the glass windows looked like they were coming off the building. Never having seen this before, I looked at them again and realized that the windows were open. A sleek, modern office complex with unsightly open windows? Yes, air conditioning is expensive and nature lets in cool breezes.

The breezes may have been cool, but I doubt they were very fresh. Air quality seemed to be below what I was used to where I live, which is supposed to have low air quality levels. My friend asked me I had any respiratory problems before we left and boy I was happy I didn't. Beijing's air is dirty, but it wasn't my breathing that was impaired. Once or twice daily my eyes would feel like they were on fire, yet they watered like pipes. I used my shirt to try to clean the filth out of them, but eye drops would've worked better. Man! The book never said anything about this.

Last, Beijing's buildings are not 90 stories tall like in Chicago or New York. The city seemed short to me, like it was still young. But that's exactly what I saw was. These buildings are developing, just as much as the country itself. I saw a poster for what I thought was a plaza complex that was being built of glass. This kind of building is a sample of what's to come in Beijing. The brick and tile buildings may be torn down in 30 years and replaced by sky scrapers competing with the rest of the world along with the Chinese economy.

For now though, Beijing's modern architecture is not the most flattering and its ancient buildings are loads more desirable to look at. One building that I remember seeing that I thought would be the kind I'd see all over was the Gloria Plaza Hotel. These buildings do exist, but they're a minority.