|The CCTV tower in May 2009|
When I was in Beijing I watched the two towers growing higher and then soon they were fused together in time for the Olympics but wasn't open for staff to work in it.
I can't even imagine how it would work logistically for a television station to have a tower that's 80 stories high. But then again it's a building that's more about making a statement than actually being functional.
Things were further delayed when some CCTV officials wanted to have their own fireworks show during Chinese New Year in February 2009. They got a hold of some grade A fireworks leftover from the Olympics and set them off near the CCTV building. Not only was it illegal to set off such powerful fireworks within city limits, but also it resulted in setting fire to the Mandarin Oriental hotel next door. There are rumours that footage from the Olympics was stored there and most was destroyed.
"The fire delayed a lot of things, but parts are open," said Koolhaas on the sidelines of a China-European Union Cultural forum. "It's not officially open yet, but it will be at the beginning of the year.
"What was complicating things was that it was treated as the scene of a crime, so it needed to be kept for a long time without interference," he said of the the fire, in which a firefighter died. Twenty people were jailed for the fire.
Koolhaas thinks people will warm up to "big underpants" as it's nicknamed in Beijing. "One should wait until it is finished. They are now taking the wall down and you can see that there is public territory in the building. And therefore the building is much more accessible and friendly than people think."
It would only be friendly if the public is allowed to walk onto the premises...
And for the VIP guests, there will be a pathway for visitors that will follow the loop of the building up to the canopy where the glass-floored overhang will have a view of the city from 160 metres.
While Koolhaas's firm is working on other projects in China, he hopes to do one involving a heritage building.
"I would actually love to do a preservation project here, preserving a worthwhile building of the 50s or 60s as a kind of prototype," he said. "What I think should happen is that we don't only look at old buildings or at historical buildings, but that we also begin to define the 50s, 60s and 70s as historical... so that the things that really define the character of a city like this one -- and of course a lot of the character has been defined by its communist period -- are kept."
While Koolhaas means well, he doesn't seem to understand that the Chinese want to move away from its communist shackles. While government buildings still retain the Soviet style for the most part China is keen to reinvent itself. It doesn't want a reminder of the past.