Sunday, April 26, 2009
Last night I met someone who used to work on the new CCTV building project.
I'll call this person X.
We asked X what it was like to work on the project and while X wasn't involved with the design concept from the beginning, X liked the idea of the continuous loop being a kind of public space where the public could go through the building like a public viewing gallery.
However, the idea of a public gallery has come into question now as the government seems more intent on wresting control of the project from OMA or The Office for Metropolitan Architecture headed by Rem Koolhaas.
X said OMA still has design control, but it's been hard to constantly monitor everything on the construction site.
We also wondered about the round helicopter pad that is now perched on one of the edges of the building. X explained it was a last-minute change that even OMA didn't know about. Seemingly overnight an army of people built the pad and the architects were shocked to see it practically appear out of nowhere the next day.
X continued, saying while Chinese builders are fast, they don't take direction very well. Some things are done not according to the plan and it's too late or impossible to correct the mistake.
So what's going to happen to the burned out building?
X didn't know, having left the firm, but believed there was political wrangling going on as to what should be done with it. However X agreed it is not safe to try to salvage the burned out building that was supposed to house the Mandarin Oriental.
In a conversation X had with someone at CCTV, this person told X that actually 10 people died, not just the one firefighter reported in the media. These people had been injured and in the hospital and later succumbed to their injuries but this was not reported. One of them was apparently a CCTV staff member.
X's colleagues had visited the project just days before the fire and at that time it looked like the construction was almost complete.
And now the CCTV tower is in limbo, with billions of yuan literally gone up in smoke. "Shao qian" or "burn money", as my local friend said.
X didn't know when the CCTV tower would be finally completed, but for many Chinese, their pride and joy is now like an albatross, a shameful and embarassing reminder of the fire and the fiasco that followed.
So much for national pride in a building that was meant to push the country to the next level design-wise.