design
design

Beijing's Drama Builds

Some of the world's hottest architects are setting the stage for the summer Olympic Games.

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Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 03/24/2008
CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION HEADQUARTERS

ARCHITECTS: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren

LOCATION: East of the city on the Third Ring Road.

NOTABLE DESIGN DETAILS: A radical design, CCTV forms a continuous loop, with twin 755-foot towers connected by an L-shaped base, and another L-shaped section bridging the top of the towers. In order to build that portion, workers constructed the towers to rise at equal heights, and then gradually built outward at the top. Finally, in November, the upper bridge was connected, putting the finishing touches on the exterior, but had to be timed to a certain part of the day when the temperature’s effect on the steel and its expansion and contraction would allow the joints to fit perfectly (in this case, around dawn).

THE INSIDE STORY: In 2003, Koolhaas had invitations to participate in two different architectural competitions: one for the rebuilding of Ground Zero at the World Trade Center in New York, and the other for the headquarters of China’s state-owned TV network. Koolhaas chose China and partnered with Scheeren in order to create one of the most radical skyscraper designs in history. However, many critics and observers believed the tower was purely a publicity stunt, and a myth, which led some news outlets to report that the tower wasn’t going to be built. Statements issued by the firm’s Beijing-based partner, Scheeren, had to reassure the public that the building was, in fact, under construction. While the interior of the building won’t be totally finished until next year, what’s drawing the most attention at the moment isn’t the architecture, but rather Scheeren’s budding romance with actress Maggie Cheung.


DIGITAL BEIJING


ARCHITECT: Studio Pei Zhu

LOCATION: North of the Olympic Green.

NOTABLE DESIGN DETAILS: Created to be an information hub, the Digital Beijing building will be a command center for the Olympics. Emblematic of the digital age, the building takes its inspiration from a computer motherboard, with four narrow slablike structures situated close to, but not quite touching, each other. Vertical lines on the glass facades crisscross each other like the lines of a circuit board.

THE INSIDE STORY: Out of all the structures commissioned in Beijing for the Olympics, Digital Beijing has the distinction of being the only major building to be designed by a Chinese firm. And since its completion last winter, it is also the first to be finished. While the structure’s main purpose is still being worked out, the fact that there is an entire building dedicated to Olympic information underlies how complex a feat it will be to coordinate the different sports activities, which will be spread out across 37 venues, with some satellite locations in Hong Kong and Shanghai.


BEIJING CAPITAL AIRPORT


ARCHITECT: Norman Foster and Partners

LOCATION: Beijing Capital International Airport

NOTABLE DESIGN DETAILS: Foster, whose firm designed London’s Stansted Airport and Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok, created Beijing’s new Terminal 3 to evoke the head of a dragon, with a roof punctuated by triangular, scalelike openings. Design details aside, the main feature is its sheer size: The world’s largest covered structure, the terminal spans more than 245 acres of floor space and cost $3.2 billion.

THE INSIDE STORY: Travelers landing in Beijing Airport on runway 36R have been noticing a long structure that begins when the airplane first touches down and continues when their flight is at the other end of the runway. Indeed, the new terminal, at 1.8 miles long, is the length of an airport runway. While it is expected to garner universal acclaim, the terminal’s main benefit will be that it will dramatically raise the capacity from 52 million to 76 million users. However, as the building was being unveiled in February, the city was already announcing that it was looking for a site to build a second airport in anticipation of the ever-increasing growth of air traffic by 2015.


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