China dismisses theatre corruption charge

1st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

BEIJING, May 31 (AFP) - A top Chinese official Monday denied corruption had played a role in the building of the landmark Beijing National Theatre, which was designed by the French architect under fire for the Paris airport terminal collapse.

BEIJING, May 31 (AFP) - A top Chinese official Monday denied corruption had played a role in the building of the landmark Beijing National Theatre, which was designed by the French architect under fire for the Paris airport terminal collapse.

Ever since Paul Andreu's plans emerged for a bubble-shaped opera house in the heart of China's ancient capital, the building has been mired in controversy for its futuristic look.

But financial wrongdoing is not among the charges that can be leveled against the USD 325 million project, said Wang Zhengming, spokesman of the committee in charge of preparations on the Chinese side.

"There's been no corruption during the handling of the National Theatre project," he told AFP.

His remark was in response to news that French justice officials were trying to determine whether any irregularities were involved in the contract to build the massive Beijing theatre.

Andreu's design was approved in an elaborate, 18-month bidding process involving hundreds of people, precluding any possibility that those in charge could have been bribed en masse, according to Wang.

"Several hundred people advised that his design is suitable. It's not that one or two people had the power to decide it, so it's simply impossible that corruption could have taken place during the tender," he said.

The allegations have surfaced at a time when Andreu's Beijing project is already back in the spotlight after part of a new terminal he designed at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris collapsed this month, killing four.

Chinese officials have said in response to the Paris accident that the theatre project will go ahead regardless, seeing no risk for the thousands who will soon start entering its titanium-covered bowl to enjoy fine arts.

"The structure of the National Theatre is safe," said Wu Huanjia, a professor of architecture at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "The roof is an arch structure, and it's been used since ancient times."

Many locals have expressed quiet shock at the building, which is now nearing completion and resembles a giant silver egg.

Among the voices of dissent have been academics and architects writing petitions to make the government reconsider a project they find too space-age for the historic center of Beijing, home to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

The debate has been taken into Internet discussion forums, with critics vehemently condemning Andreu's project for its cost, its rejection of the norms of Chinese architecture and even for being difficult to clean.

But other Chinese believe the building provides an interesting contrast with the surrounding cityscape, including the Great Hall of the People next door with its monumental Greek columns.

"There are lots of classical buildings in the area, so it's different, but it makes for a synthesis of old and new," said Li Yougang, an economics student passing by the construction site. "It makes a good impression on me."

Work on the theatre began in December 2001 after years of delays, and could be complete by late 2005, according to previous comments by Andreu.

The building is more than 149,500 square meters (1.6 million square feet) in area and comprises three halls, including a 2,416-seat opera house, a 2,017-seat concert hall and a 1,040-capacity theatre.

Chinese and overseas performing arts companies are already bidding to become the first to perform there, with at least 21 proposals for the theatre's first show, some from foreign countries, including Britain's Royal Opera.

Chinese media have said a stage version of the award-winning film "Farewell My Concubine," directed by noted Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, was a leading candidate for opening night.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

 

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