It's been a wild week...two days in Tokyo, two in Beijing, then Shanyang, Yingkou, Dalian, and Shanghai. The architecture in Shanghai is amazing...here's why:
China has gone through a lot of changes since I was here last - economically, politically, and socially. It's a whole lot freer, and there's a major anti-corruption effort going on. The China Daily English language newspaper is more likely to print critical articles; yesterday's paper had a story on how Chinese environmentalists, using the equivalent of the Freedom of Information act, wanted answers on why certain foam products, which had been considered environmentally negative and therefore banned back in 1991, had been approved to go back on the market. The finger was being pointed at government officials who were too cozy with the manufacturers.
Make no mistake; there are still many challenges to say the least, and the government is still in the driver's seat, but there's a sense of continuing forward motion and the "opening up" that started 30 years is, if anything, accelerating. I was shocked at the lack of pollution in Beijing, but it was because driving and traffic had been restricted to particular days of the week, keyed to license plate numbers. And the high-speed train to Shanyang and Dalian was intense--200 miles per hour and you didn't even feel it, the ride was so smooth.
China is very interested in doing more cultural outreach. Its manufacturing base is eroding because higher wages and better working conditions have raised prices, and your basic "I don't give a damn about anything except profit" companies are abandoning China for Viet Nam, Bengladesh, etc. So China wants to start exporting its culture and arts, and part of that was showing our delegation the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Now, I've been in a lot of acoustical spaces and concert halls in my life, but this was breathtaking. The acoustics were unbelievably good and consistent, everywhere in the building. The NCPA has given thousands of performances since it was open, including world-class opera, and is generally amazing. There's no way taking photos gets across the size and scope, but I tried...
The "roof" has an artificial lake that's about 3 feet deep, which normally wouldn't be a big deal except that...
...the entrance to the concert halls goes under the lake, so when the sun is shining, the patterns of water play on the walls, the floor, and of course, the ceiling.
Here's what the glass wall facing the lake looks like.
This looks up at the various concert hall levels from the ground floor. There are several performance areas.
Here's looking down at the levels from an upper level. The acoustical treatment is amazingly effective.
This is one of the smaller performance spaces, where a symphony was rehearsing. I was behind glass, and the sound bleed was virtually non-existent.
It was really difficult to shoot the main concert hall (with a reverb time of 2 seconds FYI) because it was darkened. But this shot of the back row shows more acoustical treatment on the back facing wall...arranged in the shape of a keyboard.
Here's a small upstairs performance space that's ideal for something like chamber music. The upper red ribbon is acoustical treatment, shaped loosely like a dragon.
And just for the heck of it, here's a random sculpture. I have plenty more photos, but this is probably enough for now...besides, I need to get to bed for the long flight back home.