Inside the Collection

The Big Trousers has a new friend

Model of the China Central TV headquarters in Beijing
Powerhouse Museum collection: Architectural model, China Central TV Headquarters, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA, ECADI, Arup, England, made by Micromodel, Beijing, China, 2004-2008. Gift of Arup Sydney.

Thanks to Arup Sydney we acquired a model of the China Central TV headquarters in Beijing. Designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA, its a sophisticated and controversial attempt to reinvent the office tower. Architects, journos and others have debated its pros and cons at length.

But in Beijing they can’t be fussed with that. To taxi-drivers, commuters and all manner of smarty-pants, Rem’s masterpiece is just the Big Trousers.

Now the Big Pants is gaining a friend, no less than a new headquarters for the People’s Daily, China’s state-owned daily newspaper. Although the new building is still under construction its appearance is already obvious. I don’t need to tell you what it’s being called on the streets of Beijing.

Photograph The People's Daily headquarters, Beijing
The People’s Daily headquarters, Beijing. Copyright

So much fun is being had at its expense that China’s version of Twitter – Weibo – is blocking photos of it. This happened shortly after images appeared on the web of the Big Trousers and the Big Penis Photoshopped together. The Chinese Communist Party is not famous for it’s sense of humour and like the CCTV building the People’s Daily tower will be home to one of the centres of information control in China.

Accusations of phallic worship are a frequent put down for tall buildings so perhaps its nice to finally see a literal phallic statement, although the architect denies any such intention.

Building nicknames have a long history and can be both affectionate – the Coat Hanger for the Harbour Bridge – or contemptuous – the Toaster apartments at east Circular Quay. In Sydney we used to have the Black Stump (the now-demolished State Office Block) and Governor Macquarie Tower is sometimes called the Egg Crate thanks to the vertical blades at the top.

I can’t think of many others (am happy to receive suggestions) which is probably because we have nothing quite comparable to the Big Trousers or its thrusting friend. Sydney architecture is either too polite or simply too dull. Even when it tries to make a statement (for example the designs proposed for the ‘iconic’ Barangaroo casino) the results are usually limp. Decidedly flaccid in fact.  Possibly a good thing, but then again…

Charles Pickett, curator

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