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October 30, 2009

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Burned CCTV building 'safe'

THE chief architect for the landmark new headquarters for China's state broadcaster said the part of the complex that burned in a massive fire earlier this year can be repaired and does not need to be torn down.

Architect Ole Scheeren said initial inspections show that the high-rise's steel structure largely withstood the fire and that preparations were under way to repair the China Central Television building.

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

Scheeren's comments are among the first public remarks about the extent of the damage to the futuristic-looking 5-billion-yuan (US$735 million) CCTV complex, which features a pair of enormous, leaning buildings of black glass and steel.

The fire in February engulfed an adjacent 159-meter, 44-story building that was to house a luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which was only weeks away from opening. An unlicensed fireworks display arranged and paid for by CCTV to mark the end of the Lunar New Year started the blaze. One firefighter died.

In the months since, the burnt building has stood untouched, its steel shell charred, next to the iconic leaning towers designed by Scheeren and his partner Rem Koolhaas in the firm OMA.

Scheeren said the main buildings were not damaged. He said there is no truth to persisting rumors that the towers and the burnt-out building 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.

Rumors have swirled for months that the delay in reconstruction was partly because the two buildings were linked to each other and that it would be impossible to tear down the smaller building without affecting the main one.

Scheeren said a detailed investigation ordered by the State Council, or the Cabinet, caused the delay and the investigation is nearly complete, clearing the way for repair work to begin soon.

"The reconstruction has not yet officially begun.

"However preparations are under way for the start, but no specific date has yet been set," Scheeren said.


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