Loved and hated China TV tower to open next year

Thu Oct 27, 2011 3:29am EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - The much-delayed but striking steel, concrete and glass headquarters for Chinese state television is expected finally to fully open in the new year, said Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, whose firm designed the building, on Thursday.

The skyscraper, described by its chief architect Ole Scheeren as a "loop folded in space," is two towers sloped together and joined by a gravity-defying canopy equivalent to 80 stories in height.

Dominating the skyline of Beijing's central business district, the building was among several projects the city undertook to reinvent itself for the 2008 Olympics, along with Norman Foster's $3.6 billion new airport terminal and French architect Paul Andreu's egg-shaped National Grand Theater.

But the Olympics came and went and the state television building failed to open. Instead it sat hulking by a main road, its grounds blocked from view by massive screens as the edifice gathered dust, the occasional light flickering inside.

Koolhaas told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a China-European Union cultural forum that a 2009 fire at a hotel being built next to the television tower had caused the delay.

"The fire delayed a lot of things, but some parts are open. It's not officially open yet but it will be at the beginning of the year," he said.

"What was complicating things was that it was treated as the scene of a crime, so it needed to be kept for a long time without interference," he said of the hotel fire, caused by fireworks in which one firefighter died. Twenty people were jailed for causing the blaze.

The television tower has divided public opinion. While many people love it, others hate it, and Beijingers have taken to referring to it as "the big long johns."   Continued...