An Architectural Tragedy: Fire engulfs TVCC, a landmark of the skyline of Beijing

Last Monday, A massive fire engulfed Beijing’s Television Cultural Centre (TVCC), the building adjacent to the headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV), a building designed by Rem Koolhaas of The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

CCTV complex as intended after completion

CCTV complex as intended after completion

The new nearly finished 44-story building was scheduled to open by mid may 2009 and was supposed to house a luxury hotel and cultural center, the building was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas as part of China Central Television’s new headquarters, an angular wonder of modernist architecture that was built to coincide with the Beijing Olympics last year.

The Building dominates an unfinished cultural center adjacent to China Central Television’s new landmark headquarters, a modern Z-shaped building that helped reshape the city’s skyline. Part of the building was used during the Olympics; the 241-room hotel was set to open this year.

The structure was set on fire by stray fireworks fired by revelers celebrating Chinese New Year during the last day of celebrations for the lunar new year.

The fire burned from the ground floor to the top floor, the flames reflecting in the glass facade of the main CCTV tower next to the hotel and cultural center. Flames were spotted around 9:30 p.m., and within 20 minutes the fire had spread throughout the building.

The TVCC on fire

The TVCC on fire

Flames shot up the TVCC, shattering windows and setting off explosions that ironically showered sparks higher than fireworks lighting up the rest of the city.

The TVCC on fire

The TVCC in full blaze

The blaze rendered the 34-story structure unusable, as the zinc and titanium alloy of the outer skin was burnt.
The cause has been caused by a massive Chinese New Year fireworks display in the compound, authorized by CCTV itself.

TVCC Lighting up Beijing’s sky

TVCC Lighting up Beijing’s sky

“Huge fireworks exploded over the building after 8 p.m., and sparks showered down,” said Ji Yuan, 14, a student who lives nearby. “The building lit up, and at first we thought there were more fireworks going off nearby, but then we saw the fire spread from the top, floor by floor.”
People are usually restricted from setting off fireworks downtown, but the government waives the rule for two weeks each year to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

TVCC burning to the ground

TVCC burning to the ground

One firefighter was killed and seven people were injured, six of them firefighters

The fire was the latest in a series of calamities to befall China since the tightly choreographed Beijing Games last August, including, the shutdown of Beijing National Stadium (Birds Nest), a severe economic slowdown, a tainted milk scandal and sporadic riots and protests.

The cultural complex was designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren. “I think it’s really sad that this building is destroyed before it can be opened to the public,” said Erik Amir, a senior architect with the OMA, who rushed to the scene.

Contributing: Associated Press, Arch Daily, DeZeen magazine blog.
Photos by: Andrew Lih from DeZeen magazine blog, AFP and Wikipedia.

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