Case Study 1: Television Cultural Centre, Beijing

Client: China Central Television

Architectural and interior designer: Office for Metropolitan Architecture

Partners: Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren

Project manager: Dongmei Yao

Project architects: Charles Berman, David Chacon, Chris van Duijn, Erez Ella, Adrianne Fisher, Anu Leinonen, Andre Schmidt, Shohei Shigematsu, Hiromasa Shirai, Steven Smit

Lighting designer: LPA, Tokyo

Associate architect and engineer: East China Architecture & Design Institute, Shanghai

Structure and services: Arup London/Hong Kong/Beijing

Address: Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

The Brief: CCTV wanted to create its new headquarters in the equally new central business district of Beijing, Chaoyang. The site will accommodate TV production facilities, theatres and venues for filming. The main CCTV building will house mainly TV production facilities, while its sister building, the TVCC, will act as the hospitality centre.

‘I love this •••• freak!’ is a comment that best sums up most people’s attitudes towards the Television Cultural Center, which is part of China Central Television’s new headquarters. The enthusiastic remark, which was posted on an on-line forum, SkyscraperCity, sounds ambivalent at first, but it is a telling statement of people’s awe and admiration for the project.

The massive 550 000m2 project sprawls over Beijing’s new central business district area in Chaoyang, away from the Forbidden City, where emperors from an ancient past ruled; about 300 skyscrapers are projected to emerge there over the next decade. The engineering feat of the loop that makes up the CCTV tower has drawn attention away from its sister building, TVCC, also known as ‘The Little one’ or ‘Mini Me’. The former stands at 234m, while the latter is about 160m.

Given that TVCC will assume a different identity from CCTV, it will not be a shrinking violet for long. While CCTV will house mainly production and broadcast facilities, TVCC wil be open to the public. Occupying 95 000m2 of land, TVCC comprises two towers, which are held together by a long-span spaceframe roof. One tower contains Beijing’s first Mandarin Oriental hotel, while the other is a collection of buildings housing a theatre, digital cinema, exhibition hall and recording
studios. Two restaurants will be on the top two floors of the hotel, linked by a champagne bar suspended over a staircase. The hotel’s circular ballroom will be surrounded by ‘a ring of water’. Lim, Teo & Wilkes will helm the design of this Mandarin Oriental; it also headed the recent refurbishment of the chain’s flagship, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, and the design of Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo.

Rem Koolhaas would be relieved to know it has been a hit so far, since he declined the invitation to design Ground Zero in New York for this project. So far, the culinary-obsessed Chinese have labelled Paul Andreu’s National Grand Theatre ‘the egg’ and Jacques Herzog’s and Pierre de Meuron’s Beijing Olympic Stadium ‘bird’s nest’. Both are in Beijing and will be completed in time for the Olympics.

The termites’ nest-inspired TVCC has not yet attracted derogatory labels, but it had to face rumours that it would not be built, and criticisms of it being a meaningless landmark. Luckily, after Koolhaas unveiled the team’s proposals ‘for historical preservation in Beijing and a low-rise business district, revealing an interlocking hypothesis for Beijing’s future land use’, most of the Chinese audience at his 2003 presentation of the CCTV project at Tsinghua University were won over by it. The unconventional architect, who writes the occasional script for porn flicks, deserves his title as one of Time magazine’s heroes. CCTV Headquarters is located near Chang’An Avenue and Third Ring Road.

Completion date: 2008

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