As the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China looms and Beijing is saddled with uncommonly odd restrictions, all eyes will soon turn towards the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tian’anmen Square, one of the goofiest sacred spaces in the world. I am reminded of a piece entitled Beijing’s Building Revolution by Louisa Lim published on March 9, 2004 when Ms Lim (currently NPR correspondent in Beijing) was with the BBC. This is a good one to visit (or revisit) as we wait for the smoke to rise from …. Sorry, wrong authoritarian allusion. At any rate, below is an excerpt:
The Chinese Communist Party has always used architecture to present its public image.
Its familiar, forbidding face is Tiananmen Square with its huge open expanse flanked on both sides by massive monolithic porticoed buildings.
Zhang Kaiji designed one of those buildings, the National Museum of Revolutionary History. As one of the chief architects for the Chinese Communist party, he drew up the plans and supervised the buildings construction in just 10 months from start to finish in time for the 10th anniversary of Communist rule in 1959.
But at the age of 92 , Zhang Kaiji now wishes he’d done things differently.
“There are a lot of things I regret,” he told the BBC.
“Tiananmen Square is too big. We wanted to show how great our country was. At that time there was a feeling that bigger was better, but I think that is wrong. It was just to show off. It wasn’t really to serve the people,” he said.