Thoughts on China: Seeing the Mandarin Hotel’s Burns Up Close

Fret no longer, dear readers, this co-editor has returned from his long trip to the Orient and has planted his feet safely back on the hallowed ground that are these United States. After having browsed the archives, we know that Stephanie has taken great care of you during this writer’s absence (a period now forever known as “that time UnBeige was really worth reading because that one guy wasn’t around”), the time has returned to get back to business. But first, before this writer gets back to real reporting (and until his jet lag haze wears off), a few words on China, where we lived, worked, and wandered for the past few weeks. First topic: during a rare break of a few hours, we hopped a cab to see/photograph Rem KoolhaasCCTV Tower, which is a beautiful thing to behold. However, no one ever mentions that the building is nearly impossible to look at from street level. There are buildings and walls surrounding the whole thing, leaving you to wander the entire block trying to get a peek through trees and alleyways. However, this might also have something to do with the adjacent, completely-destroyed Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which you’ll recall our reporting on when it caught fire and was incinerated. But even after reporting on it, reading about it, seeing photographs and video, we weren’t prepared for how incredible the burnt structure looked in person. It’s a huge, post-apocalyptic nightmare of charred windows, bent steel, and pieces of its frame jutting out where the fire consumed everything around it. It’s just a breathtaking, tragic mess, made all the worse with Koolhaas’ other architectural marvel sitting right next to it. The developers have clearly tried to hide the damage by constructing three-to-four story walls around it, but even as much as they’ve tried, it’s difficult to shield every view of a thousand foot tower. If you ever find yourself in Beijing, it’s probably a little ways out of your way, but make sure you make the trip to see both, particularly before they start tearing down the remnants of the Mandarin.