Reaching for the Sky is a documentary by Bert Oosterveld & Peter Franken about the creation of the world's tallest tv tower by architects Mark Hemel and Barbara Kuit. After winning a competition they are assigned to build the highest television tower of China. The world seems at their feet now their dream of building an icon becomes reality...

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The making of
the world’s tallest
TV tower

"Reaching for the Sky" candidly shows the personal and professional dilemmas of young architect Mark Hemel who, together with his wife, architect Barbara Kuit, seems to achieve his highest ambition with his first assignment.


This tower will be his calling card and may give him the opportunity to move to China, a country where there still is room for extraordinary ideas. But disappointments come as soon as the tower is being realized.

Without him knowing it, modifications are made to the original design. Mark’s relationship with the tower changes constantly. Sometimes he caresses her full of wonder and then he reproaches her rashness.

‘Reaching for the Sky’ candidly shows the personal and professional dilemmas of young architect Mark Hemel who seems to achieve his highest ambition with his first assignment.    ↓    ↑


Mark Hemel studied at the Technical University of Delft and Architectural Association in London. He received several scholarships for research in Africa and Asia from the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. From 1999 to 2008 he taught as Unit-master at the Architectural Association in London since 1999 and later in the post-graduate Environment and Energy program. In 2003 he received the RIBA Bronze Medal Tutor Award. In 1998 he and Barbara founded Information Based Architecture. Those first years IBA was based in London, but since 2003 they operate from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Barbara Kuit graduated from the Technical University Delft, The Netherlands. She worked as a local architect in cooperation with Philippe Starck in London on the Sanderson and St Martins Lane Hotels. Subsequently she worked at the office of Zaha Hadid in London, on the Mind zone in the Millennium Dome in London-Greenwich; on the Contemporary Arts Centre in Rome; the Wolfsburg Science Centre in Germany; and on many other competitions and projects. In 1998 she founded Information Based Architecture together with Mark.

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The directors

Bert Oosterveld and Peter Frankenest:

It’s always a great challenge to get
real close to people


After Bert Oosterveld graduated in photography and AV-design at the Art Academy St. Joost in Breda, he started a study for cameraman at the Dutch Film Academy. As a documentary cameraman he worked for 20 years for the public Dutch broadcasters. He filmed all over the world: Sherpa people in Nepal, melting glaciers in Patagonia, well drilling in Ghana. He is interested in why people do what they do. And let them tell their stories to the world. Oosterveld prefers to work with a small crew and small size cameras because they allow him to be flexible and not too dominantly present in the field. Reaching for the Sky is his first film he also directed.

Peter Franken (1968) is an independent filmmaker based in Amsterdam. He graduated from the Rietveld Art Academy. After working as a versatile visual artist he decides to focus on the medium film and began making concept driven shorts, video-art and documentaries. His desire to make Reaching for the Sky stemmed from a strong interest and curiosity in what people thrives in there ambition and ideals. Currently he researches and wrote the script for the feature 'God on IJtje' about a protestant priest who against the odds starts a church in the God fearing newly build neighborhood of Amsterdam. It will be broadcasted in spring 2013 on Dutch National Television.    ↓    ↑

The production company

DocEye Film

Production company Doc.Eye Film is founded by awarded documentary producers Frank van Reemst and Joost Verheij. In a progressively competing market they create internationally orientated, challenging documentaries. Films on the cutting edge of cultures, with a special interest in themes related to social and cultural inequality.

Visit the website of Doc.Eye    →

The book about the creation of the tower:


Making one of the world’s tallest towers

At 610 metres, the TV Tower in Guangzhou designed by the Dutch architects Mark Hemel and Barbara Kuit is one of the world’s tallest buildings. Construction of this spectacular tower, which is now nearing completion, was exceptionally complex owing to its free form, tremendous height and welter of facilities including observation decks, conference rooms, shops and cinemas. Additionally, the location requires that it should be able to withstand earthquakes and typhoons.

Existing legislation and working methods failed to satisfy a building of this size and height. The chosen methodology, which was developed while construction proceeded, can be cited as an example of how to handle new projects of this megascale. Supermodel reports at length on the project’s origins, history, design and construction as well as the work situation in China, which seems increasingly to act as an incubator for experimental architecture.

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Credits and Specs


Original (Dutch) titleHemel in Guangzhou
With the architectsMark Hemel & Barbara Kuit
Directed byBert Oosterveld & Peter Franken
CameraBert Oosterveld
Camera fireworksMark Hemel
SoundPeter Franken & Yorrick de Nooijer
EditorJan Wouter van Reijen
MixageAlex Booy
TranslationErik Pezarro
Eindredactie AVROMarijke Huijbregts
Office ProducerElleke Claessen
ProducersFrank van Reemst & Joost Verheij

Country of productionThe Netherlands
Year of production2013
Duration59’13’’ / 52’
Colour or black/whiteColour
Screening formatdvd, bluray
LanguageDutch, English, Chinese
SubtitlesDutch, English, Chinese
Production Company
Doc.Eye Film
Van Hallstraat 52
1051 HH Amsterdam
T: 0031 (0) 20 6865687
mail    website

This film is made possible with funds of the Dutch Fund for Architecture and the Dutch Consul in Guangzhou.   A film by Doc.Eye Film in co-production with AVRO   © 2013 Doc.Eye Film & AVRO         ↑