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ON THE HORIZON: Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Binhai Center (CTF Tower)
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Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Binhai Center (CTF Tower)

By Richard Cook

3Last month we took a look at the Goldin Finance 117 Tower, a pretty good starting place when we talk about developments in the city. Goldin Finance 117 is a symbolic development by all accounts. Perhaps its location is questionable, on the far reaches of Metro line 3, but it none the less retains its stature. Now we shift our eyes to the other side of Tianjin, Binhai to be precise. We're going to take a look at another towering marvel as China continues to accelerate to its "megatall" age. To add architectural scope, if Tianjin were looked at like a compass, Goldin Finance 117 would resemble the West point and the CTF Tower the East. Keep this in mind as we will eventually think about how they reflect Central Business Districts (CBD's).

1Experience... that's what this company has, especially in Hong Kong. New World Development Company Limited (as it has been called since 1999) has a range of successful projects dating back to the early 1980's, most restricted to Hong Kong. However, in recent years and citing the company motto, this company recognized the "Brave new world" of development within China long before the contemporary "megatall" era's dawn. Now concentrated in 21 major development sectors across China, with its long-standing reputation, this company is making sensible and coherent development policy decisions. A long time ago, New World Development realized the advantageous position of Tianjin and the massed importance of Binhai, marking their keen ambition to mastermind a key symbolic development project here.

Much like the GF 117 project, the CTF Tower will accommodate residential, hospitality and commercial office sectors - accounting for the high rise catering trend that is self evident across the city. Receiving numerous awards, prominently the Architecture A+ Award, it is, by conceptual standards, a center for economic polarity in the region. The CTF Tower will rise 530m/1,740ft, 96 stories. Within this curvy structure, there will be 300 service apartments and vast commercial office space. At the apex of the tower a 350 room 5-star hotel will provide a wide-ranging view over the port economic zone. Again we see a pitch by Tianjin/Binhai towards attracting more serious commercial giants to the region.

Positioned in the heart of Binhai - TEDA, near the Metro line 9, Taida station.

Consistent with government policies and the need to stimulate the aesthetic qualities of TEDA, it is understandable that the CTF Tower has such persistent hype. Along with this project there are others in the area that build a methodology and narrative for discussion, which we will look at in the upcoming months. And as with so many other projects, there is a symbolic goal - a visual picture that displays China's economic prowess.

2Originally expected to be finished later this year, the CTF Tower experienced delays similar to Goldin Finance 117. Various reports place completion at 2016 or even 2018, and experience tells us to probably expect the latter.

All of this begs a critical question - How many Central Business Districts does a city need? "If you open a shopping mall, you create a centerpiece for a shopping district. If another mall opens in a contrasting location the shopping district is in danger of becoming diluted, as customers may defer to the new mall. A third, forth, fifth etc... causes further dilution."

Many foreigners arrive in China and have a critical perception about the fundamental layout of city planning here. A Central Business District (CBD) is the contemporary heart for any city, as the commerce that flows through it acts as its blood. This organic perception is commonsensical. However, many note the skepticism that is pointed at Chinese city design - it doesn't quiet make sense. I mentioned earlier how the Goldin Finance 117 and CTF Tower mark an East and West point on a Tianjin compass, illustrating the highly decentralized manner of the city's design. The TEDA area is illustriously important in policy but at times is lacking in perceivable logic. A clear example is the metro line design, and its lack of parallel completion with the Binhai TEDA area projects. "Practicality + Location x Common Sense = Success for CBD design". We have all heard the stories of ghost towns/cities across China. If you go to the Binhai area now there is a rugged feeling, even a lack of heart. Furthermore, an area that looks attractive by aesthetic standards doesn't necessarily account for potential success. Binhai and TEDA future projections are strong; however an overabundance of CBDs presents a risk of dilution. The CTF Tower looks to be the symbolic pinpoint for the Binhai CBD. Let's hope it can deliver.


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