Too Big To Fail?: Long awaited and much debated, the enormous headquarters for CCTV finally opens, already a symbol of the new Beijing. But what does it actually say about architecture and China today?
Promising to “kill the skyscraper,” Rem Koolhaas and his colleagues at Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) grabbed international attention in 2002 when they won the competition to design a huge headquarters in Beijing for China Central Television (CCTV), the state-run news and entertainment network. Polemical and hyperbolic as usual, Koolhaas said the skyscraper had become “corrupted” by its proliferation around the world and “negated by repetitive banality.” So instead of joining the race to build ever taller, his scheme bent the high-rise into a loop of interconnected activities. Four years after it was originally scheduled to open—in time for the network to broadcast the Beijing Olympics from its new home—CCTV is finally moving employees into the controversial building, a 5.1 million-square-foot structure that even before it was completed had imprinted its swaggering form on the fabric of the city and the mental map of its citizens.