Bizarre CCTV headquarters seems to defy gravity


May 21, 2012

CCTV's Beijing headquarters (Photo: OMA / Iwan Baan)

CCTV's Beijing headquarters (Photo: OMA / Iwan Baan)

Image Gallery (18 images)

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.

Fire guts the BTCC adjacent to CCTV headquarters, Bejing, February, 2009

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.

Source: OMA via Archdaily

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson

Heh, it really does look like a giant pair of boxer shorts. :)

Those glass panes will be fun to walk on during an earthquake.

Von Meerman

Beijing is not in an earthquake zone..... seen this in real life and its rather impressive!


If the building seems to defy logic, that is because it does, and for no good reason. There is an awful lot of building hanging out there in space in a gigantic cantilever just tempting fate and the next earthquake to topple it. I wonder how much extra money was spent to build this peculiar structure over the cost of a more sane design. This building, like some others by Frank Ghery and Daniel Libeskind should be seen as freaks of architecture.


Bizzare, insane, freaks, defying logic???

Who's logic? Hopefully not yours.

C'mon folks, this is a stunningly beautiful building and the Chinese should take all sorts of accolades for having the taste and courage to go ahead and build it.

The design is more than Excellent. It is a signature building. While I might agree about Daniel, I'd certainly disagree with any notion that Gehry produces freaks.

Making strong departures from the norm and having them be far more than just successful, actually beautiful, is one of the ennobling aspects of mankind, rarely found.

Otherwise it's just boring, pablum mush for the weak brained automatons!


Island Architect

Illogical - its a cantilever. Cost - more than a 'conventional' building would be. Functionality - no more than a conventional building. A edifice dedicated to the architect's ego. A giant slab-sided concrete, steel and glass building, nothing more. IMHO - ugly.

Art Brooks

I assume there is a girder truss that runs diagonally straigth across from corner to corner running right thru the bridge section. I'll have to see if there are any photos of the building under construction to see if that's correct.


No, there is no diagonal girder truss thru the bridge section. The building is built with an exterior structure of vertical and diagonal I beams that form a lattice-like tube. The bridge is truly cantilevered. I wouldn't have done it that way. My way is cheaper but it would take up interior space in the bridge. But hey, when you have money to burn, spend it!


Brooks, (I can't bring myself to say "Art" since it would be too ironic,) if you think big buildings should only be judged on the most cost effective means of cramming folks into offices then you might consider not weighing in on the architectural merits of anything. It’s a landmark, an icon and an attraction as well as a workstation. Geez, talk about a Wal-Mart mentality! How much more provincial, narrow-minded and boring can you get?


I remember when Airbus was testing A380 the Americans could not handle the fact that bigger better and significantly more efficient jumbo aircraft was being built outside of US. As a American I felt proud of the achievement of human race for it's accomplishment. Most of the negative comments are likely Americans just ticked of that the attention is focussed somewhere else. As an American, I applaud bold decision - right or wrong - for taking the courage to build something different. Congratulations to fellow citizen of China - well done.


There is no reason to think the design is dangerous, but the cost has to be high for the square footage.


been there and seen it, very impressive when you didn't know such a building exsists and the taxi from the airport drives right past! Sooo many more impressive building right across China. I've stood at the highest observator in the world 110 floors up in Shanghai! and they're building an even bigger one next too it, not sure if it's finished yet? love to back some time in the future.

Mark Scope

Imagine the amount of people on the top hanging part will over balance the bottom. Would be funny. Screw CCTV. Though gotta admit design is impressive.

Kirill Belousov
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles