Architecture for Autocrats

Amidst all the oohs and aahs over Beijing’s buildings, architects are debating the moral implications of redefining the capital’s skyline. First, there’s this article in Business Week from Dorian Davis:

Earlier this year, during an urban development forum at a university in Belfast, Ireland, the New York-based architect Daniel Libeskind ruffled feathers when he admonished fellow architects not to accept commissions from China and other so-called repressive regimes. “I think architects should take a more moral stance,” he proclaimed. The Polish-born architect’s speech incited backlash from colleagues and charges of hypocrisy—some pointed to his Hong Kong project, the now-under-construction Creative Media Centre—but his remarks incited a question that can leave some architects feeling squeamish: Is it ethical to accept commissions from authoritarian governments with poor human rights records?

And previously, from Robin Pogrebin, in The New York Times:

One lightning rod in the debate is Rem Koolhaas’s mammoth headquarters for China’s state broadcast authority, CCTV, a minicity in itself in a capital where cranes dot the skylines and nearly every famous foreign architect has a project on the boards. Mr. Koolhaas suggested at the outset of the project, which he was assigned in 2002, that by the time his tower — a hulking hollowed-out trapezoid — was completed, China’s censorship of the airwaves might well have changed. (The building is almost finished.)

Also, in Foreign Policy: The Architecture of Autocracy


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