The headquarters for the State controlled Central Television (CCTV) is due to be officially completed early next year although parts of the facility are already open. The geometric design was created by Pritzker Prize (2000) winning Dutch Architect; and Harvard graduate and Professor; Remment Lucas Koolhaas along with Architect Ole Scheeren.
It appears that the CCTV Tower (2002) project was the catalyst that opened many doors for Koolhass in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Since then, Koolhaas’ has completed as many as 18 more projects in the Communist nation. Including a new Shenzhen Stock Exchange. He has also expressed interest in preserving some “classic architecture” from the 50’s or 60’s communist era – you know, the good ol’ days when the Chinese government mowed down their citizens in the street.
In my opinion, producing 19 projects in China makes one a Communist Sympathizer. Because of these practices, Koolhaas gets an automatic Grade – ‘F’ from the Critical Architect. It’s one thing to purchase a pocket radio that has parts made in China; but directly profiting (receiving Architectural Fees) while helping the state run television spew lies and propaganda (by designing the facility to do it) is akin to giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and is completely unacceptable. But perhaps they don’t teach that at Harvard.
As for the design of the structure, perhaps it is somewhat prophetic that the broadcast headquarters is wrapped with a webbing like accent, emulating the web of lies that will undoubtedly be broadcast and forced upon the oppressed of that nation. Perhaps Koolhaas thought he could contain the deceptions within this web, perhaps not. Only he will know for sure. But given his enthusiasm for wanting to preserve Chinese history, I seriously doubt this was his intent.
Aside from the web, the form of the structure is remarkable and it fits right in with an urban modernist philosophy. In fact, I must say that it is a shame such a stunning architectural and structural achievement was wasted in the communist nation. Such a design would fit much better in a U.S. urban renewal setting, where it would get the acclamation that it deserves.
The operation and function of the facility appear to be well thought out and a model of Chinese efficiency. The tapering 50 story tower facade conceals a vertical core with fairly uniform and modular construction. The pedestrian flow-through begins at an underground subway connection; crosses over to Tower II; goes up the elevator; crosses back across the elevated 13 story bridge; then back down Tower I to the subway. It is very efficient and gives occupants a way to experience all aspects of the facility…well, at least those that are open to the public.
The building typifies the “us” and “them” mentality that is indicative of Chinese society. The “haves” in the V.I.P. lounges can stare down to the “have-nots” in the lobby through large glass windows. This “look but don’t touch” mix of openness and separation can be found in many spaces throughout the design.
For design ingenuity and application the Critical Architect gives this project – High Marks. However, because this project will enable the proliferation and expansion of Chinese propaganda, the Critical Architect gives the CCTV Tower – Two Thumbs Down.
Let us not sell our soul to the devil just to put a few dollars in our pocket and a new picture on the wall.