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The OMA-Designed TVCC Goes Up in Flames

February 6, 2009

By Aleksandr Bierig

Reports surfaced Monday morning of a devastating fire at the OMA-designed TVCC  building, which sits next to the iconic Z-shaped CCTV tower in central Beijing.

Monday was the last day of the Spring Festival in Beijing, a holiday accompanied by widespread and mostly unofficial firework celebrations throughout the city. There is speculation that a stray firework ignited the blaze. No injuries have been reported.

fire at the OMA-designed TVCC building
Photo © Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
There is speculation that a stray firework ignited the blaze.
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According to the Chinese Xinhua News Agency, the fire was under control by midnight Beijing time (11 a.m., U.S. Eastern Standard Time). The news agency also cited “a young man who declined to be identified said the fire had apparently started at about 8:25 p.m., when firecrackers landed on the top of the building.” Police had not yet confirmed the man’s story.

The fire reportedly did not damage the adjacent CCTV tower, which has been covered widely by the press and was featured in the July 2008 issue of RECORD. Both buildings are still under construction and are scheduled for occupancy later this year.

Aric Chen, a freelance architecture and design writer, left the site around 12:45 a.m., Beijing time and says that the TVCC building looked “burned to a crisp.” Chen, whose accommodations are a 15-minute walk from the building, says hundreds of onlookers remained at the site. The fire seemed to continue to burn around the 15th and 30th floors, he says, as water cannons doused both sides of the structure. “It is a misty night, and it was difficult to see the building,” Chen says. He adds that klieg lights were aimed at the building and the site was surrounded with police and soldiers, creating an exceptionally eerie scene.

Scores of videos on portals such as YouTube appeared almost instantaneously, showing spectacular footage of the devastation. The tower is to house the 241-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, as well as a theater, restaurants, conference rooms, and other venues. Last November, the building was a finalist in the 2008 International Highrise Award, given by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt, Germany.

OMA’s Rotterdam office released a quick statement on Monday that said it had learned of the fire and would advise the public as it received more information. Rem Koolhaas, the firm’s head partner, is traveling and is not available for comment, according to a firm spokesman.

The 159-meter (522-foot) TVCC has played a key role in “transforming a part of Beijing that had been an industrial area” according to Clifford Pearson, RECORD’s deputy editor who has traveled to Beijing on multiple occasions. Both the TVCC and CCTV have become major landmarks and are central to the creation of a new business district for the city.

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