Went to see the OMA Bejing CCTV exhibit at MOMA yesterday. The exhibit was only one room, but it tried ot do a lot in the small space including tying the CCTV building into the history of utopian architecture and modern Chinese development. Koolhaas is (according to MOMA at least) rethinking the important building and making the gradioise gesture of superiority be about architectural bravado (a radically new design) instead of being merely a pissing contest about the height of the skyscraper. Pretty interesting stuff.
I was particularly fascinated by two aspects of the show:
1. How much of the exhibit talked about the speed with which the building was being completed (thousands of workers are apparently at it twenty four hours a day). Not to get all…um, lefty, but the style/means of the production of the building is in this show almost as important as the look of the building. There are giant photos of some of the workers, numerous passages about the scale and cost of the project, and a lot of talk about the larger construction boom in China. Here we can marvel at the creative Dutchman and the work ethic of the Chinese all at the same time.
2. Not surprisingly, there was no talk about the contradictions inherent in this building. Here is this revolutionary piece of architecture, which hopes to rethink both the nature of an important building (stressing form over height) and the interrelations of the people within the building (mixing workers, managers and tourists together in interesting new ways) but the building is being built for state controlled television… and I wonder about the bargaining power of the workers whose photos adorn the MOMA. I am not going to say that western architects should boycott China, but I wonder to what extent (and I think Koolhaas talks about this somewhere) the building of a theoretically democratic building will in anyway effect the nature of the political system in China.