Chinese Puzzle

Project Description

Chinese Puzzle

by Luke Crisell, Nov, 2006 [View PDF]

Can a 35-years-old German architect construct of the most daring skyscrapers ever in Beijing?

Even from a distance, Ole Scheeren  exudes the kind of towering augustness you might expect from a man in charge of  one of the most ambitious architectural undertaking in history. A partner at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and director of their bureaus in Rotterdam and Beijing, Scheeren  is leading the design and the execution of colossal China Central Television(CCTV)headquarters in Beijing’s rapidly developing Central Business District –the subject of the largest exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art ever to focus on a single architectural project.(“OMA” in Beijing: China Central Television headquarters by Ole Scheeren and Rem Koolhaas” open on November 15.)He may also be the first young architect to fully break out of the shadow of his mentor while remaining his partner.

That this partner is Koolhaas, one of the most celebrated architects alive, makes it all the more impressive.

Scheeren, just 35, couldn’t have picked a more dramatic way to do it. Upon completion-scheduled to be in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games-the CCTV complex, with a budget in excess of$700 million, will broadcast to the whole of China and other parts of the world via satellite. A bombastic, trapezoidal, continuous loop that looks more Mobius  than skyscraper, the main CCTV structure will stand at 230 meters tall ,little more than half the height of the Sears Tower has 3.8 million square feet of floor space, CCTV will have 5 Million-enough to accommodate 10,000 employees, whose 24-hour activity will become, as Scheeren says, a “collective organism” it’s a building that Tina di Carlo, the curator of the MoMA  show who frequently travels to China to visit the Site, calls “the creation of frequently travels to China to visit the site, calls ”the creation of an entire world.”

For Scheeren, CCTV’s eccentric profile is dictated by necessity rather than ego.

“What interests me about CCTV as a shape,” Scheeren explains, “is that, in many ways, it is extremely unfashionable. It is neither smooth nor elegant. While everything tries to get thinner, it got thicker. While everything is getting smooth, this got angular.” For Scheeren, CCTV’s eccentric profile is clearly dictated by practical necessity rather than ego. “I’m not at all interested in the notion of a signature building,” he says. Signature or not, the robust structure is certainly, for Scheeren, a statement. In an unprecedented move for OMA, his name will go before Koolhaas’s on CCTV”s credits.

As lead designer and partner in charge of some of OMA’s most lauded recent work, including the Prada Epicenters in New York and Los Angeles, Scheeren is the firm’s most promising prospect. And for many people –including, you get the impression, himself – it’s about time Scheeren got the recognition he deserved. Asked if CCTV is about receiving a larger slice of the pie, he discreetly responds,
“Rem gives you the possibility and space to grow, and there is something generous about that.” With all the world looking to China for the 2008 Olympics, Scheeren certainly seems to have the poise, and the talent, to finally step into the spotlight. – LUKE ORISELL