BEIJING (28/4 – 22/5 2018)
City origins: approximately 3000 years ago
Municipality land area: 16 410,54 km2 *
Urban population: 21 707 000 **
The gargantuan city of Beijing was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. This creature’s urban plan is a combination of the ancient cosmological principles and Chinese walled cities tradition with modern Soviet-inspired planning. This becomes clear already during the visitation of the city center. After a walk through its historical north-south axis and harmonic Forbidden City one arrives to the enormous rectangular Tiananmen Square with Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in the middle. Both ancient and modern faces of Beijing are expressions of absolute power manifested through the city planning and architecture.
The extension of a traditional Chinese city grid was developed in accordance to the socialist design. The historical heritage is being cherished, but older sections were also demolished ruthlessly. One can once again find concentric rings around the city, although this time having rather square than circle shapes, being cut by the wide arteries. Considering Beijing’s immense scale it is still surprisingly easy to navigate.
With the prevailing central urban planning in China and notorious huge scale urban projects it comes as a no surprise that there are also big plans for its capital. In a Jing-Jin-Ji project Beijing, another nearby megacity Tianjin and surrounding province Hebei should merge into one city with an unprecedented population of 130 million.
Since there were similarities between Moscow and Beijing, which it was impossible to ignore, I once again started with circulating the city from its core outwards, this time using mainly buses, subway and Beijing’s extensive bicycle network. Once more I spent one whole day locked in the metro. An important part of my research was also a two-day articulation of the future Jing-Jin-Ji conurbation.
* Source: Ministry of Commerce, People’s Republic of China, 2007
** Source: National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing, 2018