With a knack for producing cutting-edge and unconventional architectural designs, starchitect Ole Scheeren has been actively challenging imaginations in Asia, spreading iconic buildings throughout major cities in the region.
German-born architect, Ole Scheeren is indeed a well-known figure in the architectural arena. Deemed a starchitect on par with the likes of Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry, he is indeed a force to be reckoned with in the industry, boasting a wide portfolio of award-winning designs mainly in Asia. Taking architecture to the next level, his designs are known to verge on the ‘impossible’ with a literally out-of-the-box uniqueness that make them stand out amongst the conventionality that surrounds them.
Currently based in Beijing with his own architectural firm, Buro Ole Scheeren, the celebrity architect initially rose to fame after leading the design of the iconic yet controversial CCTV building- China Central Television’s broadcasting headquarters-in Beijing. The cutting-edge design of the building which resembles an angular arch, connects two slanting towers at the peak as well as the base, going against the conventions of singular block high-rises. Besides becoming an iconic landmark and tourist attraction in Beijing, the unique structure also won the “Best Tall Building” award by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) in 2013.
Scheeren’s inclination towards architecture was seen way back in his younger years when he was still an adolescent. He was immersed into the field at a very young age due to influence from his father-an architect who taught at a local university. Working at his father’s studio from the age of 14, he initially found the profession rather unappealing, deciding never to venture into the field.
It was only when he met Rem Koolhaas, the founding partner of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) that he had a change of heart. Koolhaas’ unique and intellectual approach towards architecture instantly inspired him. Consequently, after the conventional education at the universities of Karlsruhe in Germany and Lausanne in Switzerland, he went on to pursue his studies at the Architectural Association in London where he graduated and was awarded the RIBA Silver Medal.
Upon graduation, he worked at OMA’s office and before long, he was directing OMA’s work for Prada, completing the Prada Epicenters in New York (2001) and Los Angeles (2004).
In 2002, he became Director and Partner at OMA alongside Koolhaas, and was put in charge of the office’s work across Asia. This was also the same year he moved to Beijing, overseeing works on the CCTV project. By 2010, Scheeren decided to part ways with OMA, opening Büro Ole Scheeren which currently has a team of over 60 international architects and designers in four offices worldwide namely Beijing, Hong Kong, Berlin and Bangkok.
Another very notable project in Asia which Scheeren started while he was still at OMA was “The Interlace”, a high-rise residential development in the island-state of Singapore which was featured in our previous edition- Issue 8 of Asian Property Review. Winning the coveted “World Building of the Year” award at the World Architecture Festival 2015, the development challenges conventional ideas about building layouts.
Unlike conventional residential high-rises which consist of several separate blocks of housing, The Interlace connects these blocks together, stacking them on top of one another in a unique hexagonal or “beehive” arrangement. While at OMA, Scheeren also designed The Scotts Tower, featuring high-end apartments in Singapore as well as the Taipei Performing Arts Center in Taiwan.
The sky is the limit
At Buro Ole Scheeren, the hardworking German has been working on the MahaNakhon Tower, a 310-meter mixed-use development in the city of Bangkok. Also boasting an unconventional approach in its design, the tower has been carved to introduce a three-dimensional ribbon of architectural pixels that coil up the tower’s full height, as if excavating portions of the elegant glass curtain wall to reveal the inner life of the building. Blending residential units, a hotel, and retail spaces in one unit, the development is the epitome for high-class living and leisure and is deemed the tallest building in Bangkok currently.
Amongst his latest projects are the large-scale urban development, DUO in Singapore, featuring two interconnected towers. Carved into sweeping concave shapes, the dynamic architecture of the towers is further enhanced by the hexagonal pattern on their slender profiles as well as a dramatically-lit façade. The towers also incorporate green features with extensive landscape areas on the ground levels, elevated terraces, and roofscapes providing accessible green space equivalent to 100% of the site area. A joint venture between Malaysian and Singaporean entities, the development includes premium offices, a luxury hotel, residences and signature retail space. Expected completion of the project is by 2017.
Other current developments include Angkasa Raya (featured in this issue’s “Design” section), a 268-meter tall landmark building in the heart of Kuala Lumpur; a studio/gallery building for a Beijing-based artist; and the Guardian Art Centre- the new headquarters for China’s oldest art auction house in Beijing. Besides that, Scheeren’s design for the future media campus of Axel Springer SE, one of Germany’s most influential and dynamic media enterprises, has recently been awarded the first prize in an international competition