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Why Hyderabad’s not far from Beijing

Michael Kwok one of China's leading engineers, is optimistic that projects on a scale of Beijing’s energy-efficient Olympic designs are possible in India too if there is a strong infrastructure base, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Aug 05, 2008 15:00 IST
Reshma Patil

One of the lead engineers behind the world’s longest (3.3 km) airport terminal in Beijing made it a point to pass through the new Hyderabad international airport a few weeks ago, as just another passenger.

The airport cleared Hong Kong-based Michael Kwok’s test — he made a quick entry and exit, the bright and spacious interior had a relaxed feel, and there were enough signboards.

He also flew out of Kolkata once, but politely avoided describing that experience.

Kwok is a Director of the engineering and design firm Arup (headquartered in London) that was part of the consortium behind urban Beijing’s bold stadiums and skyscrapers spurred by the Olympics. Arup was also a lead designer for the Rajiv Gandhi International airport off Hyderabad, and is part of the consortium redeveloping the New Delhi Railway Station, among other Indian projects.

Kwok, who has worked in mainland China for 15 years, is optimistic that projects on a scale of Beijing’s energy-efficient Olympic designs — like a nest-shaped stadium and an aquatics venue resembling glowing bubbles — are possible in India too if there is a strong infrastructure base and government vision.

The benefits of a modern and innovative cityscape go beyond the obvious, Kwok pointed out to HT recently in his Beijing office.

“Architecture gives back to a city by infusing it with a spirit of creativity and competitiveness that helps attract the best global talent”.

A section of Chinese say Beijing’s new look is too costly and flashy for a nation that, like India, is still trying to bridge wide rural-urban disparities. And despite China’s authoritarian regime that stifles public protests against government decisions, the Olympic projects did face delays — from unexpected engineering challenges and sceptical Communist Party of China officials who found the designs too radical, too difficult.

“We went through a very intensive process to convince a series of local experts and authorities,” said Kwok. “It was hard work with sleepless nights. People also argued that the buildings were not cost-effective, but tourists will stay an extra day just to tour this architecture.”

His office overlooks another project, the upcoming headquarters of China Central Television with two leaning Z-shaped towers joined at 90 degree angles. Tourist groups are already clicking the towers, even before they are completed.