fire! fire! beijing architecture    In recent years, it’s been said and written again and again in specialised architectural media that China is the new architects’ studio’s paradise. Like Dubai and other countries like it in the
Middle East, China, the inventor of capitalist communism, has attracted the best, most important architecture.

With the excuse of the Olympic Games that were held in Beijing, what’s more, they paid owners of buildings incredible amounts of money to be able to link their names with the city. (You don’t have to go as far as China to see that. It’s a global tendency. For instance, somebody thought
they needed a bridge designed by Calatrava in Ondarroa…).

In fact, in this country which does not respect human rights, the best known architects in the world use their elbows on each other to get to leave their signature in China. And don’t expect to hear any criticisms. Just as Sir Norman Foster bowed down before the Queen, so he did before the leaders of the People’s Republic of China. Well, one criticism has come to light. The architect who designed Beijing Fine Arts University, Arata
Isozaki (who also built the skyscraper in Bilbao), has been highly critical of China’s architectural policies recently. He’s said that the country’s been affected by nouveau riche syndrome and has openly and daringly criticised
the quality of buildings, their design and materials.

The most important project after the long list of emblematic buildings built for the Olympics is Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheer’s architectural studio’s spectacular proposal. It was going to be China Televisions (CCTV)’s new headquarters and Beijing Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Work began on the
building in 2004. On February 9th 2009, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, somebody lit some fireworks in what was going to be the hotel... inside the building. And the building set fire. It didn’t just get a bit burned, it got burned so badly that they had to knock the whole building down. And as they couldn’t use dynamite, they’re still taking the building down by hand, beam by beam. One of the fire-fighters died. The people who played around with the pyrotechnics have been executed (in fact, it really might be a good idea to do the same thing with people who set fire to
woods). There’s a joke the people of Beijing tell about it. The conflagration was no surprise, they say, because the hotel looked like a penis and the
television building was like a vagina. And when there’s a penis close to a vagina with no chance of getting in, it gets too hot and that made what happened inevitable. What a sense of humour.