Wang Zhengming, director of the 2.7 billion-yuan (£180 million) theatre,
designed by the French architect Paul Andreu, seems to relish the debate
about a building that will be China’s premier showcase for international
and domestic artists. He quotes a Chinese proverb: “Two parallel streams
can never meet.” And laughs: “This shows that this building is full of
character.” He is equally unconcerned by criticism that the project is late.

He told The Times: “Mr Andreu told us that anywhere in the world a
building as complicated as this would take ten years to build, but we
said that in China we could do it in four. He said even in China it
would take seven years – and he was right.”

A further delay came when costs and safety were reviewed after the new
terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris – also designed by Mr
Andreu – collapsed in 2004. Next came the challenge of keeping the
titanium and glass shell shining in a city that is heavily polluted and
hit by dust storms from the Gobi desert. Mr Wang said: “We can wash off
the dust but the bird droppings are really troublesome.” Cleaners will
tackle the titanium roof and a nanotechnology film that covers the glass
will dissolve droppings and dust.