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Dawangjing follow-up 11: moving forward at top speed

October 18, 2012

konjaku: The demolished Dawangjing village is reconstituted symbolically as the 500 year old pagoda tree, preserving all its memories. In historical times Dawangjing was a gateway to the capital, as a traveler’s rest stop one day away. Now, as an “international gateway,” what is most important is that the new business center, or CBD, will be only minutes from the Beijing Capital International Airport, obviating the need for international business travelers to even go the city center.


The Dawangjing village site is bustling with heavy machinery in the throes of construction. The small village, which according to legend had its name bestowed by the Qianlong Emperor when he passed through it, has now receded into history. Becoming the new gateway to the capital, as the next Central Business District, with the most well-known real estate developers vying with each other for a piece of the action –this is what Dawangjing villagers now gossip about in their hours of leisure.

Bearing the dream of Beijing to become a world city, and undertaking the mission to be the economic center of the next world economy, Dawangjing now strives to be as an international headquarters of high technology, information, energy sources, and automobile production enterprises. With a carefully thought out arrangement of parks, an efficient road network, and with the strong backing of many of the world’s top 500 companies,  a world class business district is being built post-haste.

A distinctive landmark –Dawangjing’s “Douxiu” Tower

This 260 meter tower rises from the center of the project being constructed by the Greenland Group (Shanghai-based real estate development corporation). From the outside, the building surface has a “woven” appearance

Poly Real Estate Group will build three office buildings at the Dawangjing site. The tallest building will have the appearance from the outside of the traditional form of a Chinese traditional folding paper lantern.

Within two or three years,Dawangjing will welcome these buildings of landmark status, fully completed

Pattern derived from folded paper lanterns, surface that suggests weaving, outlines forming curves –world famous designers have planned these buildings, combining classicism, grace, and movement. This forest of buildings, vying with each other to be the most beautiful, will make up the Dawangjing business district.

As demanded in the 12th five year plan, Beijing must exert itself to build a “world city.” In marching toward this dream of “world city,” having an internationalized business district is essential, and Dawangjing presented a favorable opportunity. The Greenland Group and the Poly Group (real estate developers) are in charge of building top class office buildings. They have invited world famous designers to create distinctive buildings for this gateway to the national capitol.

The Greenland Group is in charge of building seven buildings. Two buildings will be a headquarters for Posco Steel, four buildings will be office buildings, and one will be a commercial building. One of the office buildings will be 260 meters high, the tallest in the capital gateway development.

A Greenland Group employee said they had specially invited the designer responsible for the Durj Khalifa (world’s tallest building in Dubai) to design the outer structure of this office tower. The designer assimilated a treasure of Chinese culture –picture weaving in silk, and has given it a new meaning by ingeniously creating a surface with a knit or woven pattern. The whole gives an impression of being fine and smoothly detailed, deep and hidden in character, graceful and restrained.

konjaku: the designer, unnamed here, is the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. The “supertall building” in the project will be 55 stories high–

Poly Group will build three buildings, one 153 meters tall. The exterior will create a new appearance and meaning for a traditional Chinese form, the folding paper lantern.

The responsibility for designing Wangjing SOHO has been shouldered by the world famous architect  Zaha Hadid. This will be a coordinated assemblage of three high rise buildings. the highest one will be 200 meters. The three buildings will have a unique curved form. Fashionable and with a futuristic quality, from every angle they will be trendsetting; graceful and beautiful.

Wangjing SOHO, Zaha Hadid

It has been reported that two buildings in the Greenland Group project will be completed first, by the end of 2013. Two or three years from now, all the buildings of the master plan one after another will appear on the stage, and the new international business district will be completed.

Dawangjing “awakens,” forging the second CBD (central business district)

In the onward industrialization of the city, in which something new appears daily, what place can be left behind? Today,  walking on the ground of what used to be Dawangjing, it is impossible to find any traces of anything referred to in this passage from Shen Kuo in the Song dynasty in his “Brush Talks from a Dream Book,” “Fifty li northeast from the capitol is the Wangjing mound.” This scenary has been replaced by countless cranes and derricks putting up high rise buildings. Dawangking village is turning into something totally new.

The 500 year old pagoda tree has borne witness

At present there are few visitors to Dawangjing Park. Once the development project by the Poly Group is completed, with residential and  office buildings adjacent to the park, it will probably be lively and bustling. Today inside the park there is a group of sanitary workers, former Dawangjing villagers, who have selected the job of cultivating their native place. Following their guidance, we came upon the 500 year old pagoda tree. It was in the process of receiving a thorough physical exam by a group of workers. This old tree is today just as it was of old, a tree that “outshines all others.” Although this more than 30 meter high tree has a trunk that is hollow and filled in with cement, and on both sides is propped up with supports, it is still towering and majestic, with birds calling high up in its canopy. A group of old people enjoying the coolness under the tree is like a scene from the village of old.

the Dawangjing village old tree, now in the park

“old tree”

10 years ago a person of Beijing would have said, Dwangjing is on the outskirts of the city. But the villagers have been constantly readjusting their lives as the city developed and expanded. The villagers used to grow vegetables, and every day would brave the dense urban roads to bring their produce to the morning market. Their greens would end up on the city dining tables.

Starting in 1996, the neighboring village of Xiaowangjing, just across a wall, was gradually transformed into Wangjing New City. By 2008, real estate values in the area had shot up several times, but Dawangjing still existed on the boundary of the urban and rural. In 2009 the plan for the “second CBD” was issued, and only then did Dawangjing become part of Beijing city proper.

“Thirty years ago, all this was rice paddy. Mr Li pointed to the construction site. ”Before on the low ground we had rice paddies, on the higher ground we planted soybeans. Whatever we planted, it grew. Mr Li is 82 years old. His family lived in Dawangjing for five generations. The land he was pointing to is where the Yuanyang Wanhe Gongguan development was being built. This is the Dawangjing Number One Parcel, which became well-known not only in Wangjing but even in Beijing, because in 2010 the Yuanyang real estate group snatched it for 4,080,000,000 yuan ($651,188,193). Mr Li said, “I thought if I lived long enough, I would see something really new. However, now that I have lived more than eighty years, in the end I can no longer recognize Dawangjing at all.” These days when the weather is fine, Mr Li walks out of his building and sits at the perimeter of the Yuanyang Wanhe Gongguan development, chatting with the security guards.  (Below, three  renderings of the Yuanyang Wanhe Gongguan development).

After the “miracle” demolition of the village without any protests, in 2010 the media put out many stories about the villagers showing off their newly acquired wealth, buying cars and other luxury items. When the Dawangjing villagers think back on those days, all kinds of feelings arise. A Mrs Chen said, “At that time I received over 2 million yuan. I bought handbags, wristwatches, and so on. I saw other people buying, so I felt I had to do it too. Now I think it was quite childish.”  In order for her daughter to go to a better school, Mrs Chen at present was in the process of selling her residence in Wangjing and moving to Haidian.  “ I can buy a secondhand apartment, or rent something One thing is for sure, I’ll never buy any more luxury items. I want to plan for my daughter’s future.”

The year of the demolition,  there were some villagers who, having been parted from the village, now decided to look for work, but could not find any. Perhaps they were unwilling to take a new job, and became instead “wealthy and honorable idlers.” For a time the media competed to bring us such stories as “driving a BMW as an illegal taxi.” But after two years had passed, the idlers began to get busy again. Li  Xiaoxuan is the family’s youngest daughter. Back then, after she graduated high school, she whiled away her days at home. Now she runs a nail salon in the vicinity of Sanyuan Bridge. “At the time we bought several residences, and thought we would make enough income to live on by renting. But as time passed. I realized it was better to have some kind of work.” in 2011, she and a few elder sisters from the village put their money in together and invested in this nail salon. “At the time, we didn’t think it would really earn more than small change.” But Xiaoxuan says it makes a profit of over 10,000 yuan a month. She is thinking of making it her career.

Dawangjing is in a strategic position, on a major thoroughfare from the Beijing Capital Airport. From the airport to Dawangjing, is the same as the distance between Beijing and the world. Gathered at Dawangjing, in landmark buildings designed by world famous designers, will be many of the world’s top 500 companies, causing Dawangjing to be Beijing’s most international business district. As a gateway to the capital, it will be incomparably superior to Beijing’s traditional central business district.

The old Beijing CBD, while large in scale, has no room for new tenants, it is all crowded and pushed into the east third ring, and, having outgrown its site, there are problems with the functioning of communications, distribution, and the environment. The new Dawangjing district plan has taken on all the strong points of the old CBD, while  managing to avoid the problems.

In the last 10 years, Wangjing has gone from being primarily a residential district, to one in which many of the world 500 companies have headquarters.  65% of Beijing’s high income population live here, one third of them are foreigners. Already in Wangjing Siemons, Motorola, Sony, Ericsson, Matsushita, Mercedes Benz, BMW, and LG Corporation have branches. The new Dawanjing business district will take on and continue this open, multi-faceted, international business ambience. With many business headquarters and elite employees gathered here, Wangjing is the most international residential district in Asia.

One matter of concern is that the in the second CBD plan, 75% of the development is devoted to business. Residential properties seem scarce. However, already the top selling Poly Central Park, an improved residential development, is there, benefiting from its proximity to the green ecosystem of Dawangjing park. Other residential projects are in the works, and Dawangjing will before long have a cluster of mansions and elite residences.(Below, Poly Group Central Park)

“Central Park” is the numbered buildings. Adjacent is the Yuanyang development. Lower right is the Poly Group office complex.

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