Beijing site of next Apec summit designed to impress

Yanqi Lake location for regional summit is meant to be a welcome - and welcoming - green departure from Beijing's tarnished, polluted image

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 6:28am

In the three months since China announced it would host this year's Apec summit in Beijing, preparations have been well under way at Yanqi Lake, a popular tourist destination in the outskirts of the capital.

On an islet in the lake in Huairou district, an hour's drive northeast of the city centre, construction of a retreat is nearing completion. The retreat will include a conference centre, a waterfront luxury hotel and 12 VIP villas.

The overall conference- centre project, which began in 2009, is being developed by Beijing Enterprises Group Real Estate Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned and Hong Kong-listed Beijing Enterprises Group.

It is hoped that the green development will present a new image of Beijing, which has been tarnished by years of haphazard development, heavily polluted air, congested roads and many old buildings torn down to give way to radical structures that seem out of place.

"A site away from the noise, pollution and heavy traffic in the city centre is ideal for such an important international conference," said Zhong Bing of AECOM, a global design firm commissioned to take charge of the overall planning on the islet.

"With this project, we are trying to preserve, as much as we can, the original habitat on the island and create buildings that fit with the surroundings. It will be a model of sustainable development in Beijing."

Upon completion, the 65-hectare islet will be a showcase of unique architectural designs. Besides the VIP villas, which dot the island and are based on designs drawn from different regions of China, the conference centre, which sits in the middle of the island, takes the style of ancient Chinese architecture, with flying eaves symbolising a big bird flapping its wings before taking flight.

The conference centre has the capacity to accommodate 5,000 participants.

Apart from the architecture, the landscaping is also expected to impress the conference participants with a motley of autumn colours on trees selected from different parts of China. The islet will also be a haven for migratory birds, with 150 nests built especially for them.

All the sewage from the islet will be transported to a local plant for treatment. Solar panels and other clean power technology are widely used in the buildings.

The site used to be a peninsula, and a 20-metre-wide channel was created to make it an islet, partly for security reasons.

The islet is part of a 1,600-hectare green development zone. No coal burning and no vehicles with high exhaust emissions will be allowed in the area from this year.

The 180-hectare Yanqi Lake, also known as the swan lake, attracts flocks of migratory birds every year. Other famous tourist spots in the zone include a 1,600-year-old Buddhist temple and the Great Hall.

The area was originally planned as a showcase of green development with facilities to host high-end international conferences. On October 8 at the end of last year's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Bali, the Chinese delegation announced Yanqi Lake as the venue of the next summit.

The overall cost of the project is 20 billion yuan (HK$25.4 billion), which includes 3 billion yuan for the facilities on the islet, according to a site run by the Beijing Municipal Government.

Though the central government is determined to impress the leaders from the 21 Apec member states, some villagers who have been relocated to new settlements are not happy with the arrangement.

A cluster of new high-rise apartments has been erected in the district centre of Huairou for the 780 relocated households from the three villages on the islet that have been demolished. A 72-year-old villager from Quanshuitou village, who did not want to give his name, said few villagers were willing to leave the islet.

"Our family has lived on the islet for many generations. They came and dumped our belongings on to a truck and then smashed our house. We had no choice but to leave," he said.

"Now without any vegetable fields, I have to buy everything from the market."

However, Zhang Qi, a 50-year-old villager from the nearby town of Huaibei, welcomed the new development in Huairou.

"It's always a good thing to bring more people from the city to our place," he said.