CCTV Headquarters

Architecture in Sanlitun & Chaoyang

Image by Best View Stock Getty Images

Shaped like an enormous pair of trousers, and known locally as Dà Kùchǎ (大裤衩; Big Pants), the astonishing CCTV Tower is an architectural fantasy that appears to defy gravity. It's made possible by an unusual engineering design that creates a three-dimensional cranked loop, supported by an irregular grid on its surface. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, the building is an audacious statement of modernity (despite its nickname) and a unique addition to the Běijīng skyline.

Unfortunately, there's no access to the site, unless you can score a visitors pass from someone who works there; the armed police who guard the gates lack a sense of humour. The strict security is partly a result of a February 2008 fire caused by stray fireworks from CCTV’s own Lantern Festival celebration, which sent the costly Television Cultural Center in the north of the complex up in flames. Despite burning for five hours with spectacular ferocity, none of this was shown on TV, with CCTV famously censoring its reporting of the huge conflagration (Běijīng netizens dryly noted how CCTV created one of the year’s biggest stories only to not cover it). The Běijīng Mandarin Oriental, a visitor’s centre and theatre were also destroyed in the blaze, but Big Pants itself escaped unsinged.