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Beijing's Water Cube 'a bundle of fun'
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Although all eyes are on the Olympic projects right now, Rory McGowan believes ARUP's revolutionary design for the new China Central Television (CCTV) HQ will turn out to be the most striking image of the new Beijing. Due to open in 2009, it represents a move away from building tall for the sake of it, providing the same space as a 700 meter tower in a 230 meter structure. There have been some raised eyebrows about its cost, but McGowan pointed out it amounts to less than one year's CCTV advertising revenue.

The designers of China Central Television's new headquarters believe it will turn out to be the most striking image of the new Beijing. [CCTV]

The designers of China Central Television's new headquarters believe it will turn out to be the most striking image of the new Beijing. [CCTV] 

ARUP has worked with many world famous architects, including Sir Norman Foster, who conceived Beijing airport's Terminal 3. But Dr Goman Ho emphasized that structure is architecture and architecture is structure. ARUP sits down with architects from day one. Their projects are truly collaborative. The question where does architecture end and design begin is essentially unanswerable.

The redevelopment of Beijing over the past decade or so has been, to say the least, controversial. Three overlapping groups have contested the way the capital is being reshaped; displaced homeowners who resent being forced to move or regard the compensation received from developers as inadequate, conservationists who complain that Beijing is being changed from a Chinese city into an identikit modern metropolis, and environmentalists who say many new buildings are wasteful of energy and water, and development trends are unsustainable.

Asked whether ARUP tries to incorporate elements of Chinese culture into its designs, Rory McGowan said it depends on the project, but "we don't build skyscrapers with curved roofs".

McGowan said five years ago Chinese developers had little awareness of sustainability. But things have changed dramatically. Government regulations regarding water and energy use have become very strict. Owner-occupiers like CCTV are very concerned with running costs. ARUP actively promotes sustainability to clients, and "with regard to building codes, we don't just tick boxes. We design from first principles, using the spirit and intention of the code."

Regarding the demolition of traditional neighborhoods, McGowan said "Beijing was overdue for redevelopment and still has a deficit of buildings suitable for business and tourism." He admitted that a balance between preserving old style communities and meeting the demands of a modern city had not yet been found.

"During the run up to the Olympics, the pause button was pressed, when the games are over the play button will be pressed again. Beijing’s future will be decided over the next 5 – 10 years".

Whatever the future shape of Beijing's "built environment", to use a favorite bit of jargon, ARUP is going from strength to strength in China. The local team has grown from 100 to 500 in just five years and contract revenues are increasing on average 30 percent year on year. ARUP China is even starting to do work for export.

(China.org.cn August 8, 2008)

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