venerdì 10 giugno 2011

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Five Modern Buildings in Asia

Grand Lisboa, Macau
Macau is the Las Vegas of China, located on a peninsula thirty-seven miles southwest of Hong Kong. Although there are tons of gigantic, glittering casinos/hotels in Macau, the Grand Lisboa stands out even among the other opulent structures. Completed in 2007, the Grand Lisboa is owned by famed Macau businessman (and one of the richest men in the world) Stanley Ho … who isn’t necessarily known for his conservative design choices. The Grand Lisboa’s shape is supposed to look like a lotus leaf resting on a sphere, but many people have likened it to, among another things, a giant pineapple.
The casino has 430 hotel rooms and suites, 268 gaming tables, and 786 slot machines and is the first casino in Macau to offer Texas Hold ’Em poker. Feel like checking out something especially neat? The Star of Stanley Ho, a 218.08 carat diamond, is on permanent display at the casino. The diamond is the largest cushion-shaped, internally flawless D-color diamond in the world!

National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing
Built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this incredible domed structure is made of titanium and glass and is surrounded by a man-made lake. Beijing’s performing arts center has been nicknamed “the egg” (we wonder why?), and its spherical design is intended to marry the modern structure with the historic landmarks that surround it. It is located on prime real estate near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and visitors enter the building from an underground glass walkway where they can look up at the lake from below.

The building’s estimated cost was just under $400 million, but by the time it was completed, the price tag was around $470 million (meaning each seat in the place is worth around $75,000). Perhaps a bit off budget … but it just might be worth it. The interior of the performance space is covered with an intricate lattice-wood design and the floors are polished marble, creating an ideal acoustic space. Make sure to put this building on your list of things to do while visiting the other tourist spots nearby, and when walking in the corridor into the building, don’t forget to look up!

Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo
Located in Shimbashi, Tokyo, the Nakagin Capsule Tower was built in 1972 and is credited with being the first “capsule” building actually put into use. Built by Kisho Kurokawa, famed Metabolism architect, each capsule of this immense building was built in a factory and is attached by tension bolts to a central core. The pods themselves (although high-tech in the early 1970s) are now terribly outdated. Each pod apartment comes with all built-in furniture, a bathroom the size of an airplane’s, a TV, a tape player, and a wall-mounted calculator.
Although the Metabolism movement has come and gone, this building stands as a reminder of the beginning of Japan’s obsession with modular living. Today the building is scheduled for demolition with a brand-new, more efficient high rise slated to take its place. Only the architect himself is fighting for the building to stay. According to Architectural Record:
“Kurokawa has pleaded to let the Capsule Tower express one of its original design qualities: flexibility. He suggested ‘unplugging’ each box and replacing it with an updated unit, letting the base towers—which he calls ‘timeless’—remain untouched. Japan’s four major architectural organizations, including the Japan Institute of Architects, support this scheme.”
But worry over asbestos contamination in the building and the immense cost for this project have led the owners of the Capsule Tower to reject Kurokawa’s plea. So if you want to see this ’70s relic, you better make the trip soon.

The Baha’i House of Worship, New Delhi
This Baha’i House of Worship in New Delhi was completed in 1986 and is the Mother Temple for Baha’i followers in the entire Indian subcontinent. Its delicate lotus shape is made with twenty-seven freestanding marble petals, arranged in groups of three, to form the traditional nine-sided Baha’i structure. The temple can hold an astounding 2,500 people in its white marble center hall.
It’s a good thing the Lotus Temple can hold so many people. From its opening in 1986 until 2002, the temple attracted more visitors than the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal—almost fifty million people in total. If you’re planning a visit to the Lotus Temple, make sure to check and see if it’s a Hindu holiday. On holy days, the temple can draw up to 150,000 people!

Esplanade-Theaters on the Bay, Singapore
Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay is a state-of-the-art performance center located in Esplanade Park, in downtown Singapore. It was completed in 2002 and designed by UK architectural firm DP Architects PTE, which explains its “unique” exterior:
“A secondary sun shading lattice is used with folded sunshades which gradually transform in shape and orientation. The resulting dynamic and ever-changing mesh of dappled sunlight and shadows has given this world class performing arts venue its distinctively Singaporean personality.”
But not everyone is convinced. The merits of the building’s design have been the subject of intense debate in Singapore. Many residents think the design is “too Western” and doesn’t accurately represent Singapore’s vibrant meld of Asian cultures. Others just call the complex downright ugly, saying it looks like Chinese dumplings, copulating aardvarks, or even the infamous (and stinky!) durian fruit.
Even though the exterior may be controversial, the interior of this much-disputed building is pretty remarkable. Inside is a 1,600-seat concert hall, 2,000-seat theater, recital theater, black-box theater, and private event spaces; there are also multiple outdoor performance spaces. Even if you aren’t interested in shelling out for a concert here, make sure to visit the art exhibit space, the shopping mall, and an open-to-the-public library to experience this structure for free.


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