Architectural Commissions in China

I am no fan of China and have laid it out many a times why I feel that supporting China is just giving support to a despotic oppressive communist regime.

The recent protests by Tibetans and China’s ruthless crackdown brings back memories of Tianamen Square and a multitude of such other events over the decades.

BDonline has a very interesting article where they pose the question “Should western architects accept commissions in China”. Below is the NO arguement by William Menking, a professor whose classes I sat in at Pratt.

The US economy is on the verge of recession and architects are terrified. The chance to do something like Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid project, wending its way through Beijing, would be very hard to turn down. We have an expression in America: fish or cut bait.

China invaded Tibet in 1951, and it might have to get out at some point. Now is an opportunity to help that.

There is an argument that by working for these regimes, you help to promote openness and democracy. I don’t buy that. I wouldn’t build for American contractor Halliburton in Iraq.

To suggest that providing high quality design justifies working there is slippery ethics. Albert Speer designing for Hitler might have said the same thing. His building itself is not political, but the act of building it, for a regime like that, is a political act.

Daniel Libeskind raised a point about property rights in China. Who owns the land? It’s murky.

I recognise the irony of an American saying this. I wouldn’t expect American or foreign architects to not work in America, but you can’t work in Iraq in good conscience.

It’s a difficult moment for architects to take this position in China. You may be cutting yourself off from a huge commission in this dynamic and expanding economy.

Organisations such as Public Architecture and Architecture for Humanity promote professional ethics in America, for example, in rebuilding New Orleans. But taking a stand not to build, now that’s more difficult.

I completely agree with his views. If you want to read the other view proceed here. Comments appreciated.

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