Museums of Beijing: Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall
Location: 20 Qianmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Nearest Subway Station is Qianmen, about 200 metres away. The Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is very close to Tiananmen Square, so either of the two Tiananmen stations would be convenient also.
Opening: 09:00 – 17:00 Tues – Sun (closed on Mondays)
Cost: Free! (bring your Passport or ID card)
Located directly behind the China Railway Museum, the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall (which opened in 2004) is a large, square, glass-fronted (often in need of a clean) building which can easily be added to any visit to the centre of Beijing (just a few minutes’ walk from Tiananmen Square, Qianmen Gate, the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, and the Forbidden City (Palace Museum).
Made up of three floors of well-laid-out exhibits with moody subdued lighting, the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is rather impressive. The centrepiece is a massive model of Beijing that can be viewed from platforms above and from ground level. Not all of the city is rendered in model form, some of it is photography from above, but the entire central area of this vast metropolis is made of small models so you can easily walk around and point out favourite spots and attractions. It’s very well done indeed and also lights up sporadically to add some evening ambience to the whole thing. Similar models exist in Shanghai and Tianjin also for completists of this kind of thing.
Up on the top floor there is an excellent exhibit about the design and construction of the Great Hall of the People (just across Tiananmen Square, the centre of governmental administrative power) is located, with the various differing plans, blueprints, photos and models of the construction, and so on.There is also a smaller exhibit, from the same team, of the new Daxing International Airport.
Other halls show the architecture and layouts of more traditional parts of Beijing, the famous Hutongs (alleyways) that made up the majority of the city in the past and now still exist in smaller quantity but provide great visitor experiences to just get lost and absorbed in a village-like environment in the centre of a massive city.
All around the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall are various small halls with displays on the history of surveying the city, on the planned development of Beijing into the middle of the 21stcentury, and more, as well as a small cinema with a 25-minute video about urban planning. It’s all pretty well done, fascinating in parts, photogenic, and also fun. Considering that the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is also free to enter its excellent value for money as well.
As one ascends the elevator to the main floors there is a very impressive and huge metal map of the old city (inside what is now the second ring road) that those familiar with Beijing will be entranced by, this is a great way to start an finish a visit to this impressive exhibition that shows just how bringing a bit of design nous to what could be a simple litany of notable buildings adds a lot of value to a visitors experience.
The Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is a strong recommendation for anyone visiting the city. The gift shop is more of a bookshop but it does at least have a coffee shop so visitors can have a rest and flick through some design and architecture books while digesting the experience after a visit of an hour or two.