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The National Art Museum of China‘s location and highly-publicized competition show that China sees the former Olympic grounds as prime site to display their vision of being a power in the 21st century. The selection committee requested that architects work closely with native artists in creating their proposals – another lesson learned from the Birds Nest, which was created in collaboration with the extraordinary and outspoken artist Ai WeiWei. We will have to wait and see Nouvel’s proposal, as his was the only firm to not submit a public proposal.
Other proposals range from a settled parametric mass from Zaha Hadid to an elevated inflated form from MAD Architects. UN Studios designed two round midrises not dissimilar to Hadid’s taffy-wrapped cylinders. OMA unveiled more of a boxy form wrapped in a fabric-like skin. Frank Gehry’s proposal surprisingly also was boxy, but featured a familiar shimmering wavy skin — this time imprinted with graphics.
The historic sustainability quotient behind many of these firms’ work is questionable. Nouvel has done some of the most aesthetically pleasing work in the world today, and he often manages to weave low-impact building strategies into his aesthetically novel designs. We will have to see if he manages to strike the balance again on such a huge stage.