One of the intended highlights of my 2007 trip to Beijing was a foray into the city’s grim “Central Business District.” I had been following with great enthusiasm the construction of Rem Koolhaas’s breathtaking CCTV Headquarters, a unique skyscraper with a seemingly impossible cantilevered loop at the top. I had hoped to get a fantastic sunset photo of the towers, which had not yet been connected, and their sister structure, the Orwellian-sounding Television Cultural Center. Unfortunately, I was confronted with air pollution so thick that from one block away, I could barely discern the upper stories of both structures. I left disappointed, bringing home only a cough that would last for weeks.
Yesterday the smaller TVCC tower was consumed by fire, apparently ignited by an illegal fireworks display commissioned by CCTV (the television arm of the state-run media). And although the organization appears to be accepting responsibility, you’d probably never hear about it in China: officials directed the press to publish “no photos, no video clips, no in-depth reports” of the incident and that “comments posting areas should be closed.” Amusing, isn’t it, that the Chinese media could burn a prominent, world-class skyscraper to the ground and decide that it’s not newsworthy?