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Much ado about CCTV tower's naked truth
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Much ado about CCTV tower's naked truth

The new CCTV tower's design has raised a controversy with an architecture scholar alleging that a book suggests it represents male and female genitals. [File photo]

You are unlikely to have missed the new CCTV headquarters if you are a Beijing resident or have visited the city recently. But has the structure appeared to you as male and female genitals?

Well, that's what the building's Dutch architect Rem Koolhas seems to think, or at least his magazine-style book, Content, tries to portray, architecture scholar Xiao Mo says in an article posted on the Internet.

"The 3D animated model we see of the CCTV headquarters is actually a giant backside getting larger as you zoom in," writes Xiao, referring to two photographs (rather collages) in Content. The main building of the CCTV complex is in the background. A naked woman, kneeling in a pose to resemble the architecture, occupies the foreground in one of them, while another woman, in a bikini and holding a gun, stares at you from the other.

Despite the collages being six years old, Xiao's posting has made many netizens join him in terming the building a "disgrace".

But Ai Weiwei, leading architectural designer and curator who has a copy of Content on his bookshelf, said it was a ridiculous joke, created by people who do not understand architecture and a section of the media that has not bothered to find out the truth.

The book was compiled by a team that included Koolhaas, Ai told China Daily, which had designed many possible covers and listed them as part of the book's content.

Most of the possible covers are parodies on politics or sex. One of them presents former US president George W. Bush, in a hat made of finger chips as Rambo in First Blood.

"We talked a lot about his (Koolhaas') philosophy of design," Ai said, claiming to be a good friend of the Harvard professor. "I am sure simple imitation of genitals was not his inspiration." Genitals are a common design philosophy in architecture, so there is nothing wrong even if Koolhaas was inspired by them.

Noted commentator on architecture and art Fang Zhenning corroborated Ai, saying: "Koolhaas thinks architecture should be sexy, but his philosophy is not as simple and vulgar as some people accuse it of being," Fang said.

That the six-year-old collages can still create a controversy reflects the conflict between some conservative Chinese architects and their Western counterparts, who have designed important structures in China in recent years, such as the National Center for the Performing Arts and the National Stadium.

"Some of their design philosophy is too avant garde for many Chinese architects," Fang said.

Ole Scheeren, the German architect who designed the CCTV building along with Koolhaas, was not available for comment.

The CCTV headquarters has been in the news for some time now - for the more than 5 billion yuan ($735 million) it cost to build and more recently for the blaze that engulfed a smaller building in the complex early this year.

(China Daily August 22, 2009)

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