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When global audiences tune in to watch the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the world's fastest and strongest athletes won't be alone in striving for superlative achievements -- a new generation of innovative architecture is rising in China. Fueled by a surging economy (the latest Chinese census, released on Dec. 20, says the country's GDP is $1.93 trillion, or 16.8% higher than previously measured), China will soon be home to the world's largest airport, the world's first fully sustainable city, and the world's highest outdoor observation deck, to name just a few of its innovative architectural feats.
With spending on China's residential building construction growing at 7.1% annually and nonresidential construction activity increasing by 7.4% (according to Cleveland-based researchers the Freedonia Group), the world's most populated country is experiencing a building boom of unprecedented scale.
The phenomenon is reaching beyond Beijing and Shanghai. As The New York Times recently reported, even the lesser-known northern city of Harbin is remaking itself with a new urban center. Built from scratch, a virtually instant skyline of residential and commercial skyscrapers is starting to sprout within a 285-square-mile area.
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES. Still, it's Beijing and Shanghai, the nation's most populous cities, that are attracting the most attention. The roster of talent hired to complete projects in these two megacities reads like a Who's Who of star architects: Holland's Rem Koolhaas, Switzerland's Herzog & de Meuron, and Britain's Foster & Partners are all completing buildings scheduled to debut by the time the Olympic torch is lit.
But more remarkable than the architects' names are the projects themselves. The CCTV tower designed by Koolhaas, resembles nothing so much as a skyscraper tumbling into a somersault and required an entirely new structural system. The new Olympic stadium by Herzog & de Meuron -- nicknamed "the bird's nest" -- will be the world's largest "green" sports arena.
The following 10 projects range from residential to infrastructure. Each, in its way, pushes the boundaries of the architectural status quo. Together, they represent the wonders rising on the skyline of the new China.
Slide Show: 10 Wonders of the New China