“Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall”, amazing urbanism and architecture museum in Beijing

A fascinating Urbanism Museum in Beijing ? Would you have believed it ?


Visiting Beijing urbanism museum might not be on your “top priority” listing and indeed, very few foreign tourists can be seen wandering around there. However, this museum, which is probably ranked at the very bottom of your priority list, will surprise you and you won’t regret the visit. Opened in September 2004, the museum can be visited from 9 am to 5 pm for 30 RMB.

If you are curious about past, present and future Beijing, then this will be a worthwhile visit !


1st floor

Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall occupies four floors of a large modern building, located at the east of Qianmen, just infront of the ancient foreign legation (or what remains of it). Charming hosts and hostesses are there to guide you throughout the whole visit. At the first floor, you will be able to observe a bronze sculpture representing Beijing’s characteristic geography that is a city surrounded by mountains. Its “ Beijing Gulf “ nickname makes sense !


2nd floor : THE model !


It is especially interesting to have an opportunity to admire Beijing’s great contemporaries’ achievements as well as the numerous exhibitions. The museum is obviously designed to impress the public with China’s huge development during the past years and to show that the incoming projects are just as amazing, but what is displayed is actually informative and gives an insight of the challenge that planning a gigantic megalopolis like Beijing actually means.

All the museum’s numerous models have been carefully designed, but the visit’s highlight is certainly the large 300sqm city model that depicts Beijing exactly as it was in 2010. This is this museum’s masterpiece that allows you to have an idea of Beijing’s actual size and organization. Or is it that as realtors we have special interest in this global view?

By getting closer to the model, you’ll be able to understand Beijing urbanism plan and how the city is built around the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City. You will be able to realize the importance of parks in Beijing city as well as the exact dimensions of all these high towers that have sprouted up like mushrooms these past decades. Regarding the rest of the city (yes, remember we are talking of Beijing city, obviously it is impossible to make it stand on a single model, whatever its size!), you’ll have the chance to discover it just under your feet, behind a back-lit glass panel.

To impress you even more, you have the opportunity to admire a model of the future Beijing Central Business District that represents how the north part of the CBD will look like when achieved, knowing that the CBD south part is still not precisely finalized as we are writing those lines.

Between second and third floor, on your right, you have a bronze wall map representing Beijing in 1949. Again, you can precisely distinguish Beijing spatial organization. The heart of the city is designed above all through the establishment of city walls, and then the global pattern follows the harmony rules of the yin and the yang as well as it respects the special relationship between man and heaven the same way the four main Beijing temple’s location has been chosen, at the four compass points around the Forbidden city (temple of the sun, of the moon, of earth, of heaven).

3rd floor, « aerial view »


You will be able to admire this superb piece of work from the third floor, a king of impressive « aerial view ».

Through this giant model, Beijing 2008 Olympics special structures are put forward. This is indeed thanks to, or because of (depending on the point of view), these 29th Olympic Games that an unprecedented urban change occurred. 2001 is the year when Beijing is designed as the Olympic host city. Beginning from that date, “the essential urban development”, to quote Beijing municipal bureau own terms, is finalized.

The main and spectacular structures such as the « Bird Nest » or the Olympic swimming pool just next to it are proudly exposed, amazing successes that seem to justify by themselves (?) the destructions that this urban renewal implied. The Olympic structures are displayed through models with a beautiful red lighting for the Olympic stadium.


The Hutongs :

On the same floor, a large part of the museum is dedicated to the Hutongs , the narrow alleys located between the traditional Chinese “Siheyuan” housing locations. Various models as well as a history of the changes that have occured these last years are exposed. A movie is shown inside a reconstituted Siheyuan with central and lateral screens, just as if you were inside a real one.

This is a reminder of how Beijing looked like before this unprecedented architectural change that occurred during the past decades, especially for the Olympic Games. Large streets, urban arteries and subway lines had to clear a passage through the megalopolis that Beijing has become. A balance has been established between the historical city preservation and urban modernization, everyone is free to decide where this balance stands and if it is a correct choice. Beijing authorities have obviously planned things looking towards the future and what they believe is Beijing citizens’ interest. This is the point in visiting this museum, to understand what urban planning is in Beijing and what its priorities are.

Wisely designed, this museum is an opportunity to debate about China’s future and urbanism choices.In the meantime, the Beijing planning exhibition hall proudly depicts the traditional Hutongs preservation and underlines the efforts made by the UNESCO to protect the area.

A showcase of China’s technology

All along the visit, various touchscreens, virtual books, videos and specially designed rooms make this museum pleasant to visit with a fun and recreational side. This showcase of technology reminds you by the way that China is the second world economy.

Little ones as well as grown-ups will enjoy the interactive workshops, especially at the second floor.

You’ll discover yourself as an emperor or empress; you’ll become a Chinese shadow puppet, hunt locusts and picture yourself under virtual leaves. Garden alleys are reproduced through which you’ll be able to do sightseeing around Beijing city.


4th and last floor

Other games are available for children, like the “Happy Families” game on a touchscreen, nothing less!

In the same room is displayed an evolution of Beijing city center through maps in 1953, 1958, 1973, 1982, 1993. These maps show the way the complicated history of China during the XXth century is reflected on Beijing urbanism.

Beginning in the 1980s and the country opening under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, a new generation of Chinese architects is born whose achievements you can see on the maps. And this is not over, far from it, and you will see Beijing evolution from 2004 to 2020 via a series of maps projected on a wall.

The fourth floor features as well an exhibition about the future Beijing. A movie called “Green Beijing” is projected and it shows the efforts made by the Beijing authorities to enhance the city’s environment. The challenge faced by the authorities is huge. Massive urbanization in northeastern China together with the industry growth has become the number one issue for China’s future and measures are taken, some of which are exposed in this museum.

Beijing the green city

What is interesting is to see how seriously green environment is considered by the Beijing authorities, how they plan to fight pollution and environmental issues and how it is at the center of the decisions taken, whatever can be said about it. The importance of this challenge has been further exposed this winter, with the 2013 unprecedented atmospheric pollution peaks observed in Beijing.

Alternative energy solutions, irrigation channels, agriculture, water supply, all these crucial priorities are depicted and the museum again provides a great opportunity to debate about China’s evolution in the past and the future.

 The water supply question alone, in China, is at the center of the development of whole regions and only the future will tell us if the measures as planned and depicted in this museum are actually adequate.

 The adaptation of such a country and habit changes among the population in such a short period of time is unseen in world history, in a few years span may China see all its efforts rewarded.


At the movies !

On the same floor, you can see a 20 minutes movie for 10 RMB more, depicting Beijing the “eternal city” and the “future Beijing”.

Eventually, this museum respects the basic rule of every museum around the world : exit through the gift shop !


Chine, 北京市东城区前门东大街20号

20号 Qianmen E St, Dongcheng, Beijing, Chine


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