Richard Steer is staggered by an extraordinary structure built for the last Olympics, but is worried that London’s efforts will be blighted by its industrial past
My wonder dominates the Beijing skyline. If Dubai is the architectural equivalent of Footballers’ Wives, then Beijing is like Footballers’ Auntie – slightly less garish, more thoughtful but stunning. The China Central Television headquarters in Beijing is both sophisticated and complex. It is a skyscraper that was delivered for the 2008 Olympics and is worth every penny of the £1bn it was reputed to have cost.
The building involves two L-shaped high-rise towers linked at the top and the bottom at an angle to form a loop, which has been described as a Z criss-cross (other local monikers include the twisted doughnut). The linking level has 4m-wide glass floors allowing visitors to peer down 162m. Next to the “loop” is an additional tower, called the Television Cultural Centre (TVCC).
The building was co-designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and in all my travels it is unparalleled for its originality.
My blunder is Battersea Power Station in London. Those not familiar with its decrepit faltering facade may recall its doom-laden form gracing the cover of rock royalty Pink Floyd’s Animals album. Even then, in 1977, it was at the end of its life. Now, some 33 years on, it is left to decay like a lost and forgotten brick dinosaur.
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was originally hired to design the exterior, which in 1933 was even voted London’s second most popular building.
Now it is a blight on the landscape and needs flattening. Plans have come and gone, from theme parks to hotels. Let us hope something can be done before the world descends on London in 2012 and we are judged not only on the quality of our new Olympic venues but also the architecture of our industrial past.
Richard Steer is senior partner at Gleeds