Accomplish the Impossible Through Collaboration

Project Description

Accomplish the Impossible Through Collaboration

by Ole Scheeren, Oct 11, 2012[View PDF]

It was 20 years ago that I first came to China. I came out of curiosity – an interest in seeing a country about which, as a boy, I knew little other than its sweet and sour cuisine, like gulaorou, probably the most well-known Chinese dish in Western countries.

The three and a half months that I spent traveling through China changed my perception of the world – and my life. It has been almost 10 years that I have lived in Beijing. It is my new home and a place that has had a substantial influence on my work.

I am an architect and am interested in cities, urbanization and its effects on society. I am fascinated by the question of what we can contribute through the cities we plan and the buildings we have built, and how we can address the challenges of a radically changing society.

In 2002, I won the bid to build the new headquarters for CCTV together with my partner at that time, Rem Koolhaas.

As the leading architect in charge of the team, I decided that the project could not be done as things were done at the time.

It used to be that people would sit in their offices in Europe to work on a design and then simply hand over the blueprints to China without further involvement.

After we had defined the initial idea of the project, I shifted all efforts to China, moved to Beijing and set up a practice integrated in this environment with the goal of working from within this culture for this culture. This method meant engaging in an intense process of collaboration with China.

Two and a half years ago, I founded my own design firm, Buro Ole Scheeren, which is headquartered in Beijing. It now has about 50 employees and is undertaking projects in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing and in other Asian countries, like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. We are also preparing to take on projects in Western countries, including Germany.

I think the most important aspect of our work is communication and exchange. We have to explore the possibilities and potential that we can find in working together and how we can do things jointly that one or the other side would not be capable of accomplishing alone.

The new CCTV building is maybe one of the best examples of such a collaborative synergy. China might not have been able to produce such a concept without us. However, without China’s enthusiasm and courage, this project could have never happened either.

The cooperation with our Chinese partners, clients, government departments and all walks of life has laid a solid foundation for this nearly impossible project to become a reality. And without any of them, it would still be nothing more than an idea.