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BEIJING — A fierce fire engulfed one of the Chinese capital’s most architecturally celebrated modern buildings on Monday, the last day of festivities for the Lunar New Year when the city was ablaze with fireworks. By late evening the blaze was still raging and the cause remained unknown, but it seemed clear that the 34-story structure, not yet completed, had been rendered unusable.
The building, a luxury hotel and cultural complex designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is part of China Central Television’s new headquarters, an angular behemoth built to coincide with the Beijing Olympics last year. The structure consists of two slanting towers that are joined by spans at the top and bottom. Firefighters, their ladders only reaching up a dozen or so floors, could do little to contain the blaze, a spectacular wall of flames eerily reflected in the glass skin of the adjacent CCTV tower.
The CCTV complex was an expensive trophy of the pre-Olympics building boom, the result of many billions of dollars that the Communist Party had devoted to making Beijing a city of the future. The main CCTV tower appeared untouched by the fire. The 241-room Mandarin Oriental hotel, which had been due to open this summer, was unoccupied at the time, hotel executives said.