Monday, April 7, 2008

Architectural Boycott

A model of Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid in Beijing. Eight towers with a mix of residential, commercial, and retail are interconnected via walkways at the 20th Floor.

Criticism over the Chinese government heated up today as protesters in Paris forced the Olympic Torch to be snuffed during its run through the city.

The Olympics have served to rile people around the world over the Chinese government's treatment of Tibet. Perhaps less on the radar is architect Daniel Libeskind's call for architects to boycott building in China altogether. As reported in last week's edition of the Architect's Newspaper, Daniel Libeskind has taken his profession to task for commissions in the country. "I won't work for totalitarian regimes," Libeskind told an audience in Belfast. "I think architects should take a more ethical stance."

As the building and construction industry stalls here in the States, this raises an interesting dilemma for architects looking for work globally. Massive undertakings, such as Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid set to open this year in Beijing, raise questions of how land is procured and how little architects know about the history of a particular site. "It bothers me when an architect is given carte blanche and told there's a great site, build X," Libeskind said. His comments apparently caused quite an uproar in the British Press.

Linked Hybrid under construction.

From Holl's website: "Focused on the experience of the body passing through spaces, the towers are organized according to movement, timing and sequence generating random city-like relationships."

A rendering shows the walkway system.

's William Menking suggests that it is time for architects to consider their role in world politics. "We are not calling for a protest against building in China, or in Azerbaijan, or for any emerging authoritarian dictatorship with an eye on cultural recognition," he writes. "There would be a certain irony in protesting one country's invasions when our own is fighting in Iraq. But it is time for a broader conversation about what it really means for architects to work in the world with eyes wide open."

Baltimoreans can spark that conversation with Libeskind himself when he comes to town for a lecture on April 24th.