Travellers' tip: pretend to be a rich expat looking for Beijing accommodation like I did, and you can get a tour of the apartments. Or one of them, at least. The disappointing aspect of this was that the apartments were really poorly finished inside, with crap paintwork and cracked tiles in the bathrooms, as well as dust everywhere. Where's the glamour? My Beijing friends tell me this is typical of many new Beijing developments. Quality control is apparently difficult, and everything happens at breakneck speed.
Unfortunately our tour didn't include any of the bridges, because a security guard wouldn't let us in there. Strange. Also, the swimming pool, located in one of the skybridges, isn't functional yet. A woman I met who lives there said she doubts it will ever be. I don't think that's for design reasons - she thought it was probably just because the developer had moved onto other things.
Over in the centre of town - just west of Tiananmen Square, to be exact, is Paul Andreu's National Grand Theatre, otherwise known as 'The Egg'. You have to buy tickets to a show to get into the auditoriums, and unfortunately there weren't any on the few nights I was there:
Here's a shot inside the Water Cube in the Olympic park. The building was more impressive inside than I had expected, although it's already showing terrible signs of wear and tear, and it's less than three years old:
This is a building by Kengo Kuma in the area of Sanlitun, a cool restaurant and shopping area in the eastern embassy district. Kuma also helped out with the masterplanning of this 'village', which aims to replicate the feel of the alleyways of the city's old hutong districts. To me, it seemed like a really successful way to group retail and food outlets in a contemporary way without resorting to a mall-like structure. Here, you had to go outside to move between shops and eateries:
Also by Kengo Kuma is The Opposite House, one of the hotels I stayed in (which is just north of the village complex pictured above). The hotel's terrific (as is the Sanlitun area generally), and highly recommended.