PRINT December 2004



BEIJING IS A MONUMENTAL WORK IN PROGRESS, ON A SCALE, like many things in China, that is a constant reminder of one’s microscopic position within a population of 1.3 billion other little specks. Any first-time visitor will remark on the slowly gyrating skyline of cranes. Veterans of the city will nonchalantly point out clusters of new towers that only recently were empty sites or, in many cases, old Beijing. Indeed, Beijing’s perpetually becoming new is, in a way, its most reliable urban constant.

Inevitably this pattern of unceasing change is woven into the city’s artistic and cultural fabric. Consider the best-known art zone in Beijing, the Dashanzi Art District (also called the 798 Factory). Formerly a military factory built in the 1950s in collaboration with East Germany and the Soviet Union, Dashanzi comprises a series of large, open-plan concrete buildings topped with sawtooth skylit

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