"Chinese architecture will benefit" from
CCTV building, says Rem Koolhaas


OMA CCTV building Beijing

News: Rem Koolhaas has defended the design of OMA's CCTV tower in Beijing, after the Chinese president called for an end to the construction of "weird architecture" in the country.

"I don't have the slightest difficulty in saying, or showing, or demonstrating, that CCTV is a very serious building," Koolhaas told Dezeen, when asked to respond to comments made by China's president Xi Jinping.

During a speech at a literary symposium last month, the president said there should be "no more weird architecture" in China, referencing a number of oddly shaped structures that have popped up around the country during its construction boom.

Although he stressed that the link between the president's comments and OMA's skyscraper had been made after the speech, Koolhaas defended the building's shape and structure – which has caused it to be nicknamed "big pants" by locals.

"[CCTV is] a building that introduces new ways of conceptualising, liberating and realising structure that did not exist in China before, and of which I'm sure Chinese culture and Chinese architecture will benefit," he said. "It articulates the position and the situation of China."

Rem Koolhaas at CCTV Headquarters in Beijing from Rem documentary by Tomas Koolhaas
Rem Koolhaas at CCTV Headquarters in Beijing. Still from Tomas Koolhaas' film REM

Completed in 2012 as the headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV), the 473,000-square-metre building comprises two towers that lean against each other and are connected by a 75-metre cantilevered section.

"The building makes a serious effort to organise a complex entity like CCTV into a coherent whole," Koolhaas said.

The Dutch architect was speaking to Dezeen after his talk at the Herald Design Forum as part of Seoul Design Week 2014, which opened today.

During the event, Koolhaas also mentioned to a group of journalists that he hopes to "have a conversation" with the Chinese president about his comments.

Koolhaas curated this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, which concluded on Sunday. He dismissed comments by architect Peter Eisenman that he had used the biennale to state "the end" of his career.

"My response is to continue working on my career," Koolhaas told Dezeen.

Image of the CCTV building is courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • Jonathan Tuffin

    He’s right. It’s an iconic building.

  • george

    Their should more of CCTV-type buildings and less weird rulers of China!

  • john

    What is in the president’s mind is actually all about power struggles in the Communist state… A second cultural revolution to wipe out opponents within and without the party.

  • a name

    I’m Chinese. Xi didn’t mention this building at all. He did mention “no more weird architecture”, but that’s about not wasting money on vanity projects.

    We Chinese netizen make jokes on lots of architecture, like CCTV – the big pants. So when Xi mentioned “weird architecture”, we netizens and news media thought of the CCTV building and other funny looking buildings.

    Well, China has always been misunderstood. I don’t know why.

    • U.N. Owen

      I beg to differ.

      I jut read an article on Xi’s comment and whilst he didn’t specifically name this ‘thing’ (I think it’s hideous),

      And no official elaboration has emerged on what Mr. Xi might have meant by “weird,” a report carried on a social media platform under People’s Daily stated that “in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’” — which IS a reference to THIS building.

  • Fedupwbullst

    It would be interesting to see the reaction of Prince Charles to proposals for a similar building in the City.

  • Steven

    China has not always been misunderstood and is also now understood, but quite often disagreed with. Their lack of freedom of speech and the internet, their support to North Korea etc. This ignorant comment on architecture is nothing.

    • Shen

      You have been ignorant. Bloody western medias have kept poisoning people’s minds for far too long, causing unnecessary fears.

      North Korea is at China’s doorstep, you have to manoeuvre cleverly. How about saying China has been saving those poor starving souls in North Korea for a change?

      Your biased comment shows how much you are an ignorant people and have zero ability to perceive things from different angles.

    • welcomtochina

      Your comment IS a great example of misunderstanding of China.
      Your ignorant comment on China really matters.

    • U.N. Owen

      I’m not getting into a political debate with someone I don’t know, but are you implying that BECAUSE it’s a Communist-controlled government, it’s ‘par-for-the-course’ that they’d be ‘ignorant’ – and if they WERE a democracy, they’d ‘understand’ and… (shudder) LIKE this thing?

      Similar to saying a person who’s ‘well-bred’ would LOVE to eat little, crust-free watercress (finger) sandwiches, whilst the general populous would find them ‘grass-filled’ and tasteless?

      That’s ridiculous. One’s political bent has noting to do with their taste.

      Just to pop your bubble, Hitler LOVED Charlie Chaplin – one of the best comedians of all time.

      Going by your logic, ‘Mr. Hitler’ should NOT have liked Chaplin, let alone specifically requested his films be obtained for his viewing.

      I could give many more contradictions, but hopefully you should get the point.

  • jing

    It is the local’s mis-thought over Koolhaas’s architecture. Not sure if they also misunderstand Xi’s thought. But definitely they need some more years to understand it right.

  • sultony

    Dreadful building which is all about ego.

    • Marcus Des

      And there they are again, the “starchitects” have once again entered the building…

  • Bernardo

    ‘He hopes to “have a conversation”‘ = kick some ass, Rem style.

    • Marcus Des

      Rem does not have conversations. He gives orders, shouts and has temper-tantrums.

  • Dbz123

    From my understanding most Chinese people do not like this building because it was so expensive. There are other projects in other cities that are hated for their design such as the big pants in Suzou.

    Also, as another commentated, there is a battle within the Communist party right now and architecture is just being used as a political tool against others. This is not really about architecture or design.

    • Shen

      Oh please, what has anything got to do with politics? How can you use this as a tool against “others” if the “others” don’t give a flying rats arse about architecture in China in the past?

  • Zu

    Before Xi becomes an architecture critic, he might want to clean up this mess first: http://myscienceacademy.org/2014/11/20/32-photos-that-shows-how-bad-pollution-has-become-in-china/

  • dashen

    As a tax payer and architect in China, I am welcoming Xi’ words, even though I do like designs like CCTV. I see local governments now appreciating more cost-effective designs and private developers who want to be different continue investing massive money on projects. It’s what a healthy society should be. Rem’s projects like CCTV and stock exchange tower are all public invested but public visit prohibited, so Chinese culture won’t really benefit. I hope maybe Chinese architects will.

  • grhas

    Thank you Rem, of course Chinese culture should benefit from first class architecture projects like this in the capital – just like their culture has benefitted from the influx of high class fashion brands for developing taste, the proliferation of starbucks for developing coffee culture (dump tea). In short, rushing to learn to appreciate the relatively finer things in life after 2,000 years in the cultural backwaters…
    And let’s align a country’s culture with a self-elected ruling party.

  • JDdV

    Koolhaas is better at writing books and telling stories for his believers. To me, his opinion is nowadays no longer interesting.

  • Eva Kaiser

    It really is an iconic building. Amazing! Loving the design.

  • rem

    Chinese don’t like CCTV HQ because it’s impossible to copy.

  • SR71_Blackbird

    Rem building is embarrassing, not only to China but also to students of architecture. It says that China is still mesmerised by western ways, but perhaps that period is over.

  • agagnu

    I must say compared with Frank Gehry, Rem’s buildings are far more palatable.

    If CCTV is big pants; look out voyeurs; behave in China.

    One could also interpret this as a tower block building double-bent over backwards to please the client.
    Try that gymnastics copycats; true it’s not easy.