Burn, Baby Burn! (Koolhaas’ Towering Inferno in Beijing)


There’s something epochal about this blaze. And it reminds me of the 1974 Hollywood classic, The Towering Inferno, that great pop culture flick that inadvertently represented the demise of high modernism. In the film, a massive skyscraper is built in San Francisco without the safety precautions the architect provided to the builder.

At 130 stories, the fictional tower would still be considered one of the tallest buildings in the world. It’s placement in San Francisco highlighted the lunacy of the endeavor since an earthquake zone isn’t the best location for such a phallic structure.


The film was based on two novels that were inspired by the building of the World Trade Center (The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, and The Tower by Richard Martin Stern) and it encapsulates the mounting questions about the value and success of the “modernist project.”


And here’s the original movie trailer:

2 responses to “Burn, Baby Burn! (Koolhaas’ Towering Inferno in Beijing)”

  1. robbie Avatar

    “i’ll be back with the whole fire department.” how many times have i said that?

  2. Oriane Stender Avatar
    Oriane Stender

    I watched a bit of the filming of The Towering Inferno when I was a kid. I’ve never understood the desire to watch disaster movies (there have always been enough real disasters that the staged ones didn’t seem like escape or fantasy, but just reminders of the real thing) but movies sets are another story; they’re always fun. Celebrity sighting that day: Steve McQueen.

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