25 août 2008

New Beijing: the CCTV headquarters

Located in Beijing's new Central Business District, near the 3rd east ring road, the CCTV towers are 240m tall with a floor area of 400, 000 square meters. The outside was completed in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In December 2002 the Office for Metropolitan Architecture was awarded the contract after an international competition. This very unusual tower will harbour China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters and the entire process of TV-making: administration, news, broadcasting, studios and program production. The tower is also called the "pants tower" by some Chinese people, because of it's gravity-defying shape. According to Arup, the company in charge of the engineering, "the tower is three-dimensional ‘cranked loop’. The building is formed by two leaning towers, bent 90° at the top and bottom to meet in an overhang and counterweight base.

The highly unusual shape means that by its nature the CCTV headquarters has some very complicated twisting and overturning characteristics. Enabling the tower to defy the laws of gravity proved an unparalleled engineering challenge, not least because the building needs to withstand a high level of seismic activity."

A second building stands apart from the towers: the Television Cultural Center, which includes a hotel, a visitor's center and some exhibition spaces.

The headquarters as a whole are said to be done by year end. When I came there, I asked my taxi driver what was his thoughts are the CCTV building. He replied that he did not like it as it didn't mix with the surroundings (plain 2 or 3 storey-buildings). I said that it is the same with the new Opera next to the People's Assembly. I guess that what we look as architectural wonders (the Bird's nest, the Opera, the Water Cube etc) are still thought to be unusual or even ugly for the Chinese 老百姓. They see their city changing so quickly, they need time to get used to it.

Link to the WSJ article about the new Beijing architecture: "Unfinished city, a Beijing tour"

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