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The Most Beautiful Book about Beijing

2018-05-15 11:08:00 Source:China Today Author:ZHOU LIN
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A Little Bit of Beijing Series

Author: Li Han, Hu Yan 

Price: US $19.95


Published by Tongji University Press

By staff reporter ZHOU LIN

VOTED one of the most beautiful books of China, A Little Bit of Beijing is an architectural graphic series focused on the most fashionable places of contemporary Beijing – Sanlitun, 798 Art District, and Nanluogu-xiang. Each area is documented through the use of architectural-style drawings featuring cut-away rooftops and comic book stylized drawings that explore the details inside the buildings. These three-dimensional labyrinth-like maps are professionally called panoramic axonometric projections.

Besides stereoscopic maps, the book series also includes 30 stories depicted in the comic book stylized drawings, architectural sketches which document the anonymous architecture in the daily surroundings, single pictures painted like fairy tales, six articles from academic theories on urban development narrating the changes in the city, and three thoughtful essays.

The core parts of the book are the architectural paintings. Sketches combine the plans, sectional drawings, and axonometric projections, and put them together following the principle of Cubism. Single drawing pictures are not simple records of reality but are also an artistic recreation of the atmosphere. Composition, color, characters, and the background – all these elements have their own strict standards. Different from Jean-Jacque Sempe’s A Little Bit of France, which sets its stories in the context of Paris; in A Little Bit of Beijing, however, common people and small areas situated in the metropolis are presented on the center stage.

Sanlitun, 798 Art District, and Nanluoguxiang are three panoramas with divided spaces of entire city blocks displayed in one picture. This cannot be achieved through a normal topographic map in which only one group of images can be shown according to the view point and vanishing point. While in the three panoramas, cross-section and parallel sliding techniques are used as an invisible knife, cutting an edge on the screen and then exposing the space behind. This method removes the shelter and exposes the distribution of different elements of each location.

If you are an architect, you will love this book series since it can help you think about architectural design in a completely new way, inspiring your creativity and enthusiasm. If you are an artist, you will embrace this exquisite and vivid book, reveling in the fact that it’s still a little bit rebellious. If you are a city planner, you may refer to this book series as it records almost every detail of the most fashionable blocks in Beijing and is a great resource to collect information for your research on Beijing’s streets and alleys. If you are a traveler, you can use it as a guide book as it shares the secluded chic restaurants, theaters, boutiques, and galleries. If you are a person who is in favor of urban history research, this book might serve as a treasure to record old stories which may become one of your most prized possessions in a decade or so. If you are a parent, this book series is a great gift for kids who love reading comic books with colorful houses, cars, flowers, and cartoon people.

Co-author Li Han is a registered architect who graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University and has worked in the China Architecture Design & Research Group for years. Hu Yan graduated from Concordia University in Canada, and has since been working on brand planning and product design. They are co-founders of the Drawing Architecture Studio and are aiming to build a creativity and innovation platform which combines architecture, arts, design, urban research, and fashion culture to discover new expressions of contemporary urban culture.

Talking about their long-term goal, the authors hope to discover some contents that fit the appetite of both refined arts and popular taste from an architectural perspective, and hope to introduce them to common people who tend to keep a respectful distance from fine arts. The book is therefore a subversive experiment attempting to secularize academic theories and to cast new light on the masses.

A decisive factor in the design of a city and its architecture is local residents’ aesthetic judgment. From government officials, property developers, to private enterprise bosses, farmers, and workers, all these people’s positions and viewpoints are the key to a good city and its architecture. Therefore, this book series combines paintings, comics, and stories to allure more people to savor the city in their habitual life, making them discover and enjoy the ubiquitous architectural arts and realize that the city and architecture can be part of their daily life.

Rather than playing the role of authoritative designers or prophets, the two authors become observers and recorders who present readers a more colorful, creative, and imaginative world instead of pictures shown on drawing sheets or computer screens.  

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