CCTV Headquarters Fire: Rem Koolhaas Tower In Beijing Survives Blaze (UPDATED)

CCTV Headquarters Fire: Rem Koolhaas Tower In Beijing Survives Blaze (UPDATED)

***UPDATE 1/10***The TVCC tower, which caught fire Monday evening due to an unauthorized fireworks display, has survived the massive blaze. As the Guardian reports:

Clad in glistening titanium zinc alloy, Beijing's 159-metre (522ft) Television Cultural Centre tower (TVCC) shot up in flames on Monday night, ignited by ambitious fireworks during new year celebrations that could barely hold a candle to the all too brilliant architectural conflagration that followed.

At least one life, that of Zhang Jianyong, a political instructor of the Beijing fire brigade, was lost, and an undisclosed number of people were injured, but for all the ferocity of the fire that reached the top of the brand new cultural centre and hotel complex, the structure of the building looked to be remarkably unscathed.

***UPDATE***The Guardian's Steve Rose wonders whether the TVCC building fire will damage the ability of European architects to secure projects in mainland China. As Rose points out, the useless Bird's Nest stadium and now blackened TVCC tower may be too bad of an omen for the Chinese:

The cause of the blaze, and the impact it will have on the building's scheduled opening this May, are yet to be determined. Although the state broadcaster had admitted some responsibility, it is still possible that Koolhaas himself will get the blame for this incident - entirely unfairly.

Even before the Olympics, certain quarters were wondering if China hadn't allowed itself to become a testing ground for experimental European architects. What purpose is Herzog and de Meuron's Bird's Nest stadium serving now that its two weeks of fame are over? Did they really need to splurge that much on Norman Foster's vast new airport? Or the Water Cube, or the new World Trade Centre or the new Opera House - all designed by foreigners?

***UPDATE***Chinese officials have confirmed that the massive fire that burned through the TVCC building in the new CCTV complex was caused by illegal fireworks set off by Beijing residents celebrating the end of the Chinese New Year holiday. Xinhua reports:

Initial investigation showed that the fire had been caused by illegal launches of firecrackers, said a spokesman with the Beijing Municipal Government.

Firefighters found remnants of firecrackers on the southern roof of the burning building.

The fire razed more than 100,000 square meters. An atrium and a digital computer room in the building were burnt down.

***UPDATE***Shanghaiist had an interesting post on the Chinese media coverage of the Beijing fire. According to the Shanghai-based site, the Chinese government sent notices to various news sources and sites in the mainland in an attempt to control the online coverage of the event. The notice demanded that news outlets cease posting photographs and videos and only publish details consistent with the official state media report. The notice can be found at chinaSmack, an English-language China news blog.

The chinaSmack site notes that television coverage of the fire was virtually non-existent and that China's bigger sites, such as Sina were made to pull photographs off the Web.


Flames have engulfed a tower in the new CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, a state-of-the-art building designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas housing the unfinished 40-story Beijing Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The building stands next door to the landmark CCTV Tower, also designed by Koolhaas. While no cause for the fire has been confirmed by officials, Chinese New Year fireworks went off around the building Monday and are believed to have caused the blaze.

According to various reports, residents in downtown Beijing had been showering the CCTV headquarters with fireworks, to celebrate the last night of the Chinese New Year holiday. Traditionally, Chinese officials waive restrictions on setting off fireworks during the holiday period.

***UPDATE***Here's a video of the blaze from Chinese residents near the CCTV headquarters. In the video, you can hear fireworks exploding as the building goes up in flames:

***UPDATE***Here's a close-up video of the fire from a street next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. You can see and hear multiple explosions:

Here' a video from a CNN iReport:

Reuters reports that the landmark CCTV tower appeared to be unharmed by fire at the Mandarin Oriental:

Fire consumed a building in Beijing that formed part of Central China Television's new headquarters, as residents launched fireworks throughout the city to celebrate the Lantern Festival Monday evening.

Flames 20-30 feet high shot out of the building, just north of the landmark CCTV tower designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The flames were reflected in the tower, which itself appeared to be untouched.

Chinese state media Xinhua reports:

A hotel adjacent to the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing caught fire Monday night, witnesses said, and the blaze was still spreading after 10 p.m.

The 159-meter building, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is around a corner from the iconic CCTV main tower, the witnesses said.

The hotel was used during the Olympics, but the hotel won't officially open until mid-2009. Witnesses said some lights had been on in the hotel.

There was no immediate word of injuries, nor was the cause of the fire known. As Monday is China's traditional Lantern Festival, the end of the Lunar New Year holiday, fireworks were being set off nearby.

Here is some background on the Beijing Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the CCTV Headquarters project from the website of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Rem Koolhaas's Rotterdam-based architecture firm:

The 241-room Mandarin Oriental, Beijing will be a key component of the CCTV project, and is expected to open in mid-2008, in time for the Beijing Olympic Games.

Located in the heart of Beijing's Chaoyang CBD area, the new CCTV development occupies 550,000 sq metres and comprises two uniquely designed buildings and an expansive landscaped media park. The main CCTV building will house the company's entire television production and broadcasting units. Mandarin Oriental, Beijing will be located in the Cultural Centre (TVCC), which will also contain a variety of facilities: a theatre, recording studios and digital cinemas.

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