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The collapse of Paris' airport prompts concerns over Beijing National Theatre
The Epoch Times
6/7/2004



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On Sunday, May 23rd, terminal 2E in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris France, designed by the well-known French Architect Paul Andreu, suddenly collapsed. Five people died and the cause of the accident has yet to be determined.

Some are questioning the construction methods as being the primary cause, which were rushed as the project was a month behind schedule due to technical problems, and some have also considered the possibility of improper design as the cause of the accident. The planned completion of the Beijing National Theatre this year may require a re-evaluation of the safety of its design, which Andreu also designed.

The Beijing National Theatre, Shanghai Pudong Airport and Guangzhou Gymnasium were all designed by Paul Andreu. All of these buildings feature domes without columns. The safety of these designs immediately drew questions from many sources. Andreu has stated that although in many aspects his design was quite bold, the building materials used in the construction of the airport were not innovative.

Andreu’s initial design of the Beijing National Theatre was tied up in disputes even before it construction began. The design was rejected by cultural circles in Beijing. The sculptural look of the theatre was too different from the surrounding traditional architecture. Critics from abroad were even more severe in their criticism. The New York Times described the design as “a huge hubble-bubble.” The Canadian architect Michael Kirkland wrote in a letter to Jiang Zemin, the CCP Chairman at that time, “What’s that? Is it an egg?” Andreu’s design for the National Theatre was so mired in questions and debate from architects all over the world that the decision on the final design was delayed. The lengthy debate was solely centered on the aesthetics and artistic merits of the design, and did not include discussion on the issue of construction safety.

Although the coordinating offices in Beijing expressed their confidence in Andreu, the architects also indicated that there was a difference between the National Theatre and the Charles de Gaulle airport in structure, therefore no correlation to the collapse exists. However, an enormous project such as this, which has exhausted US$300,000,000.00, may in the future require a re-evaluation on safety concerns and should also include the possibility of extending the completion date.

Andreu firmly claims that the fault does not lie in his design. The airport has stated that cracks in the structure were found before the completion of the collapsed lounge, but it did undergo repairs and passed an inspection. At present, the investigation team has begun the process of interviewing 3,000 employees in the airport. They have reviewed thousands of materials drawn from four hundred different factories and businesses. An on-site investigation into the technical failure of the structure has begun, the specific cause has not yet been determined.

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