Building a Reputation

Project Description

Building a Reputation

by Bonnie Chen, Aug 14, 2009 [View PDF]

At only 38, Ole Scheeren is a partner of Pritzker Laureate Rem Koolhaas’firm Office For Metropolitan Architecture, heading the Asian operations of OMA, whose projects include the CCTV Tower in Beijing.

To build the CCTV Tower, he set up the OMA office in Beijing in 2002 and then moved his base from Europe to Asia. As OMA has been appointed as one of the consultants for the West Kowloon cultural distrct project, he is now setting up an office in Hong Kong. It was back in 1992 that Scheeren’s interest in Asia was aroused. He traveled to Hong Kong and cities in the mainland to experience life at the grassroots level, taking trains between cities and staying in dormitories.

“That experience made a fundamental shift in my life,” he said, “I have a strong connection with this part of the world and want to do something in the region.”

Influenced by his dad who is also an architect, Scheeren designed his first building at the age of 21, “But I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my dad and I once thought of not being an architect.” He added.

His interest returned one day when he drove along a highway in Europe and had the urge to take a closer look at the buildings he passed.

“I never trusted coffee table books which presented the kind of aesthetics that I don’t believe in. As an architect, there is an inevitable role for us to communicate with the world, to speak about the context of beauty and perception.”

But architecture is not the sole interest of the German architect, who has been involved with art exhibitions in MoMA in New York, CCTV in Beijing, Cities on the Move in London and Bangkok, and the Rotterdam Film Festival. “I was inspired by existentialism and Dadaism when I was a teenager, and later contemporary culture,” he said. “But usually I am fascinated by cities I live in and I am still looking for a flavor for Hong Kong and Beijing.”

Over the past decade the world had been enthralled by iconic architecture, but after the financial crisis he expected the world of architecture would take qa different direction.

His current projects include the Crystal Island in Shenzhen, which will be a major new cultural center, transport hub and public landmark; a media center in Shanghai; and the Taipei Performing Arts Center in Taiwan.

Inspired by local culture, he designed the MahaNakhon – which will be the tallest mixed-used tower in Bangkok when completed in 2012 and will feature a protrusion of balconies in the middle of the façade. “In Bangkok, all the gross floor area counts and people can afford to buy an apartment with balconies.”

In Singapore, the architect intentionally raised the whole façade of the Scotts Tower, a high-end residential apartment block, to give residents a better view and allow the developer to sell at a higher price.

His architecture has also proved controversial.

The CCTV Tower has been described as “the pants,” and the project has been criticized for being over budget.

But he explained that there are issues over budgets for many big projects worldwide.

Often true costs are kept confidential and information disclosed to the press does not reflect the real situation, he said.