Office buildings have traditionally been so staid that whimsical departures from the norm still trigger a strong response, both good and bad. The latest member of the avant-garde architecture club, the estimated US$1.08 billion, 44-floor, 768 ft (234 m) CCTV headquarters building in Beijing (already so iconic it's part of a board game for architecture groupies) is now finally complete - after nearly eight years of construction.
With its five million square feet plus (473,000 sq m) of floor space, the voluminous OMA-designed China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters is comprised of two leaning towers connected by an innovative 246 ft (75m) cantilever that appears to defy physics to form what is essentially a linear loop. Much like the construction of a bridge, when the time came to connect both ends of the cantilever in the middle, work had to take place early in the morning to assure that the metal was of uniform temperature so as not to lock uneven stresses into the structure.
Among the first projects to be completed (of more than 300 planned) in Beijing's Central Business District, one tower of the unusual CCTV complex, dubbed "Big Boxer Shorts" by locals, is devoted to broadcasting (news and program production), the other, to research, education and miscellaneous services. Previously, CCTV's different facilities were scattered all over the city.
An adjacent tower, the Beijing Televison Cultural Center (BTCC) was scheduled for earlier completion but caught fire in 2009 - apparently due to wayward fireworks. After the charred, rusty hulk sat next to the shiny new CCTV for many months, the decision was finally made to restore it and, to the relief of many, construction has begun again.
Adding to the challenge of the CCTV project, which suffered its fair share of setbacks over the years, was the fact that Beijing is very seismically active. It's unclear how big a quake the building was designed to withstand, but it's a sure bet staffers will have a wild ride if the earth starts to move during one of China's many temblors.
One unusual feature that's sure to give even the least acrophobic a tingle is the inclusion of walk-on glass portals on the cantilever deck for that indescribable feeling which comes from staring hundreds of feet down with no visible means of support. Who knows, with plans to admit the public in to observe CCTV's media activities, the building could potentially become one of Beijing's top adrenaline rush destinations.
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