Plans to rebuild damaged CCTV building under way
Associated Press
2009-10-28 11:06 PM
The chief architect for the new headquarters for China's state broadcaster said Wednesday that preparations are under way to begin reconstruction on part of the complex that burned in a massive fire triggered by illegal fireworks earlier this year.

Architect Ole Scheeren said in an interview with the Associated Press that the high-level investigation into the fire that damaged a China Central Television building is "almost near its conclusion" and plans are under way to begin rebuilding soon.

"The reconstruction has not yet officially begun," he said. "However preparations are underway for the start, but no specific date has yet been set."

Rows of scaffolding are now visible around the perimeter of the charred tower, though no workers have been spotted on the site.

In February, the 520-foot (159-meter), 44-story building, known as the Television Cultural Center, was engulfed in flames after an illegal fireworks display arranged and paid for by CCTV to mark the end of the Lunar New Year festivities. One fireman died fighting the blaze.

The building had housed the nearly completed luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, television studios, an exhibition space and a visitors' center. It's part of the same 5-billion-yuan ($735-million) complex that houses the iconic, futuristic-looking CCTV headquarters designed by Scheeren and famed partner Rem Koolhaas.

The stunning complex, which helped transform the capital's skyline for last year's Olympics, had served as a monument to CCTV's rising ambitions and the spectacular fire was a major embarrassment for the state broadcaster and China's leaders.

The head of CCTV, Zhao Huayong, was replaced amid a high-level investigation ordered by the State Council, China's governing body. More than a dozen people have been arrested, including the former boss of CCTV's construction bureau, Xu Wei. News reports have alleged that he ordered the powerful pyrotechnics be used, while ignoring safety warnings.

Scheeren said preliminary findings indicate that the main concrete structure of the fire-damaged building does not have to be torn down. The main CCTV building itself was not damaged, he said.

"The preliminary findings are that the building can be repaired," he said, "It's still intact and safe. There will mainly be a repair effort but not a complete rebuilding."

Scheeren said there is no truth to rumors that the two buildings were interconnected and served as a counterweight for each other.

"The two buildings are completely unrelated structurally. There's no connection between them. I think it's very important to dispel this kind of story that the two buildings are connected and one depends on the other. That's absolutely not true," he said.

Scheeren gave no further details on a timeline for the reconstruction. But he said his firm OMA is continuing work on the main CCTV headquarters and expects to be completed by next year.

"On the construction, the interior fit-out on the building, we're looking at completion of that sometime next year," he said.

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