Iconic CCTV Headquarters Completed

China Central Television’s headquarters building is finally complete. 10 years after design approval and 8 years after construction began, China’s state-run television broadcaster is finally ready to set-up shop in the new skyscraper. Shanghai daily reports on the life of the project from conception to completion, briefly mentioning the illegal fireworks display that led to major damage in the construction complex in 2009:

Like the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube – signature venues for the 2008 Beijing Olympics – the CCTV building is part of a new architectural wave that is redefining Beijing.

[…]CCTV looked worldwide for the design of its new headquarters in 2002, shortly after China joined the World Trade Organization and won its bid to host the Olympics.

Construction began in 2004 and by summer 2008, its exterior was completed.

But then disaster. A fire in February 2009 engulfed an adjacent building in the complex that was to house a luxury hotel.

An illegal fireworks display to mark the end of the Lunar New Year was to blame. One firefighter died and eight others were injured.

The disaster became an embarrassing episode for CCTV. Its head, Zhao Huayong, was replaced and 20 people sent to prison.

The postmodern project is part of the architectural new-wave that is defining Beijing’s modern cityscape. An article in the Washington Post quotes chief architect Ole Scheeren on the project’s societal significance:

“One thing this building has done is it has asked a lot of questions. It has questioned what is architecture, what can architecture be, what can it do,” Scheeren told The Associated Press. “This question can be answered far more deeply and interestingly now that the building will start to live and will start to be utilized.”

[…]China “was set to appear on the world’s stage in a new era,” Scheeren said. “That psychology of a very future-oriented moment was very important to make this project possible.”

[…]Scheeren declined to reveal the project’s cost, though outside estimates have put it at hundreds of millions of dollars.

He said the architects hope the building can be a force of progress in China’s development.

“It’s mainly the end of our work, but it’s actually the beginning of its life,” Scheeren said. “From here on, the building finally will be what it’s made for.”

While the 44-story marvel’s unorthodox design has won it the nickname “big underpants” (one of many not-so-flattering epithets for the structure), World Architecture News explains the conceptual significance of the abstract structure:

The CCTV Tower provides the infrastructure for the entire television production process, using the idea of a single continuous loop of interconnected activities throughout the building, creating a ‘three-dimensional experience of geometric and social continuity.’ Through the implementation of this looped network it will allow for the whole building to run simultaneously in a unified cycle, from start to finish, both architecturally and in terms to production.

There are future plans to open a ‘visitor’s loop’ in the tower, a path that allows the public to flow through the building as a tourist attraction, providing views across the entirety of Beijing and allowing the visitors to experience the production process in television in the building.


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