This monumental jigsaw of steel and glass is the Beijing headquarters of China's state television, CCTV. After construction started in 2004, it became a defining symbol of 21st-century China—and of the East's hunger for gonzo architecture. Ole Scheeren, who designed the building with his former boss and mentor Rem Koolhaas, explains the pros and cons of bringing adventurous buildings to Asia and the Middle East.
The West, says Scheeren, has become risk-averse, "more concerned with maintaining its status quo than reimagining its future." In contrast, the East is increasingly "geared toward change and reinvention"—fertile ground for designers. (Similarly ambitious projects include Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center and Kazakhstan's Palace of Peace and Reconciliation.)
Some of these projects have been criticized for bolstering undemocratic regimes, so designers like Scheeren sometimes have to defend their work: "Our decision [to design CCTV] was embedded in an explicit historic context of change and an explicit ambition to open up, expressed from the side of our client, and at that time, I believe, felt by the whole population."
With the CCTV building, China was interested in reinventing the very idea of the skyscraper. "Beijing provided a very different context, which produced a very different building, one that no longer wanted to be the tallest," Scheeren says. That kind of directive leads to fascinating, if sometimes silly, results. Locals have nicknamed CCTV's headquarters "Big Shorts."
The design-competition TV show was a revelation in the fashion world. It proved that audiences want more than just a beautiful product; they're eager to see how it's made. Fashion consultant Tim Gunn, who mentors the show's contestants and tells them to "make it work," remembers the shock of it all.
The comic above is based on an interview with Gunn and a statement from the executive. Click to enlarge.
COLOR OF THE YEAR*:
*According to expert color forecasters at Pantone.
Livestrong bracelets are ubiquitous on wrists.
Athens's $11 billion Olympic stadiums are designed for single use. Some now sit empty and irrelevant.
CAR OF THE YEAR:
Toyota Prius: The hybrid internal combustion engine goes mainstream with the second-generation Prius.
SHOE OF THE YEAR:
Adidas: Built-in microprocessor pushes performance-footwear prices to new heights.
LIGHTBULB OF THE YEAR:
PolyBrite: First plastic LED bulbs usable in standard sockets.
THE YEAR IN SPACE:
Spaceshipone: Mojave Aerospace Ventures launches first manned private spaceflight.
- 2004: Ambitions Rise in the East, Project Runway vs. The Industry
- 2005: Rethink Dinner, A Better Drug Bottle, Inside a Designers Mind
- 2006: PG&G Best-Kept Secret, Man with the Golden Touch
- 2007: Know your Type, The iPhone... Stinks?, The iTunes Effect, Can Design Change the World?
- 2008: All Politics is Visual, Nature as a Teacher, The Rise of Designer Founders
- 2009: Track and Fields, The Crowd Takes Over, Don Draper Hits the Mall
- 2010: Hands Off that Logo!, Innovation's Perfect Storm, Close your Eyes, See Everything
- 2011: Why People Love an Infographic, A Long-Awaited Vision, Reviewed by All, When Design is Also Art
- 2012: London Plays for Keeps, Instagram, Pinterest, and the Next Big Thing
- 2013: Talent War, Young Guns, The Future of Transit?
[Rem Koolhaas And Ole Scheeren (c) Oma (Cctv); Hot Item/Fail Icons By Radio; Evan Agostini/Ap Photo (Hadid); Heeb/Laif/Redux (Cloud Gate); illustration by Henry Obasi; icons by l-Dopa; spot artwork by Max-o-Matic]
A version of this article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.