Mocking the Monument | CCTV snapshots

CCTV | Beijing, December 7, 2008
CCTV | Beijing, December 7, 2008

China is frenetically searching for a CCTV nickname. Mocking monuments, a form of architectural appropriation, is common to the Chinese construction culture, but the most recent invention – referring to CCTV as the “Big Underpants’ Building” – has caused a stir and a laugh on several websites. Other names in the running are Harmonious Gate, Happy Geometry, Peak of the Ages, New Angle, TV Magic Cube, TV Rubik’s Cube or Future Window.

While the foreign press has attempted to describe the buildings’ form – at once as a massive contortionist, an elephant on a wire or a giant Mobius strip of a skyscraper – it seems that to its architect not a single description would do justice to the complex identity of the building. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Rem Koolhaas/OMA explained this as follows:

Take the CCTV complex, for example. Now that it’s almost complete, the way it functions becomes clear. It looks different from every angle, no matter where you stand. Foreground and background are constantly shifting. We didn’t create a single identity, but 400 identities. That was what we wanted: To create ambiguity and complexity, so as to escape the constraints of the explicit.

So how to call it now? A Mobius Monument with a Multiple Identity Disorder? The Icon of Unstable Identities?

On Sunday December 7, MovingCities went capturing some of CCTV’s identities from different heights, angles, perspectives and distances. We thought about the point we made a couple of years’ ago that “Koolhaas’s intervention in China is CCTV, a formalist–functionalist architecture, not phallic but vaginal, one that contributes both to the modernization of communist culture and to the definition of architecture.” In the mean time we snapshotted CCTV in over 400 pictures and made a selection.

Pictures by Bert de Muynck | movingcities.org

Further Reading

“The end of the skyscraper as we know it: from CCG to CCTV” | Archis #05, 2004
Residual vs Icon | Polarinertia Feb, 2008

8 thoughts on “Mocking the Monument | CCTV snapshots”

  1. Nice article, i wonder why there is so little information on the building lately.
    If there´s a need for a nickname i´d call it wether “the big void” or “the weird frame”.
    Some reference to unnecesary overexpense would fit too, like “the expensive hole”.
    Though your sugestion on vagina is quite interesting, of course. Best regards.

  2. Nobody cares about it. That’s the problem. Vagina or underpants. Best Rem can do. It’s what he loves, of course.

  3. I was lucky enough to see the building under construction, and based on this picture it’s definitely still an imposing and interesting building, but just not as imposing and interesting as when it was being built. The perfunctory diagonal strips on the glass walls are nothing compared to what’s holding up that building underneath. I saw its top ends progress from unconnected to barely connected at the bottom—now that they’re completely joined, the kiss is over and the suspense is all gone.

  4. gaaawd, he does talk some rubbish doesn’t he?
    all buildings look different as you move around them, is that not so?
    and what is this function that he speaks of?
    the function of monumentality?
    bla bla bla
    it’s a building with an unusual structure, sure, but not an historic event nor monument

  5. The “big underpants” name has been around for a long time (more than a year) what’s gotten people talking recently is the rumor that in response to ‘big underpants” CCTV proposed calling the building 知窗 “knowledge window” which happens to be a homonym for 痔疮 “hemorrhoid”

  6. Funny, so manny all off you try to say the building OMA designed is nothing… why do you comment on it then? It is clasic that people laugh about Vaginas or underpants… It says more about you then is says about the building…

    I gues Obama whas wrong saying: “People will judge you based on what you build; not what you destroy”

    Good luck with negativity…

Leave a Reply