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Space-age opera house still on, says China
The Chinese authorities are to go ahead with building a controversial space-age opera house in central Beijing, despite a storm of protest from local architects and academics.

The French-designed building is expected to look like a huge egg covered with glass and titanium and set in a lake. Audience members will enter the building via an underwater tunnel.

But the structure has been criticised as un-Chinese and a waste of money, reports BBC Online News. The National Grand Theatreis expected to cost 2.6bn yuan ($314m) by the time it is completed in 2002.

Moire than 100 architects and 46 academics called on the Chinese government to stop the project, saying it was too expensive and would not be in keeping with local architecture. A petition sent to President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji warned theproject would turn Beijing into "the laughing stock of international public opinion".

But Wang Zhengming, a spokesman for the project, said reports that the construction had now been halted were nonsense. He said French architect Paul Andreu was putting the finishing touches to his design in Paris and building work would start as soon as it was approved.

The French news agency AFP said the building would still comprise a 2,500-seat opera hall, and three other theatres with seating for 500 to 2,000 people.

Wed Dec 19 2001 (11:36:25 AM)