China Central TV Headquarters

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China Central TV Headquarters

Shot of CCTV (China Central Television) building during construction in 2008. Principal architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren designed the funky building.

© Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/Corbis

At first glance, the headquarters of China Central TV (CCTV) looks like something out of an M.C. Escher painting. And yet this is no fantastical vision of infinite loops and never-ending staircases. The building opened in 2012, after 10 years of design, development and near disaster. A fire in an adjacent CCTV building, in 2009, almost derailed the project, but you can't hold a good skyscraper down. Today, the oddball structure can be seen throughout Beijing and stands with the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube, two iconic venues of the 2008 Olympics, as a symbol of China's dynamic future as an international superpower.

The Dutch architectural firm OMA designed the building as, it said, "an alternative to the exhausted typology of the skyscraper" by throwing out the traditional straight-backed tower in favor of a three-dimensional structure. The loop is created by joining two leaning towers, top and bottom, with L-shaped connector bodies. Tower One has 54 floors and rises to 768 feet (234 meters); Tower Two has 44 floors and rises to 689 feet (210 meters). The overhanging cantilever jigs 246 feet (75 meters) to the west, then jags 220 feet (67 meters) to the south.

According to the OMA Web site, the architects drew inspiration from the television production process, which requires a loop of interconnecting activities. That may be a fanciful interpretation, but one thing about this structure is true -- it's no boring rerun.

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