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