First Soho China shocked Beijing with the concrete towers—accented in lemon, flamingo pink, and electric blue—of Soho New Town. Then the same developers brought haute design to the foot of the Great Wall with Commune, a cluster of strikingly modern holiday villas outside the city. Now they're back, with Jianwai Soho (Third Ring, Zhong Rd.; 86-10/6567-3333;, a new complex of shops, restaurants, skyscraping apartments, and low villas in Beijing's Central Business District. The clean-lined buildings, by noted Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto, stand on the largest swath of park in downtown and are complemented by sunken gardens and winding pedestrian paths (cars have been banished to a subterranean lot). The "neighborhood" takes over some of the most densely populated acres of Beijing; the completion of the project in 2007 will bring a much needed oasis of calm just in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
—Craig Kellogg