With Rem Koolhaas’s eagerly-awaited CCTV headquarters nearing completion in Beijing, many are considering the role of architecture in China’s quest for status as a world power. Great buildings have always played a role in a regime’s strength and prestige, and for the last decade China’s central government has been hellbent on constructing impressive city skylines. Shanghai’s own horizon has progressed at a breakneck pace, with its latest undertaking, Xintiandi II, (dubbed Xintiandi’s “big sister” by Shanghai Daily), scheduled for completion within the next 7-10 years. Neville Mars, a Dutch architect in Beijing interviewed by the New Yorker, believes that the central government’s approach towards architecture is dangerous:
The Chinese appear to be in control, but it is really moving too fast for anyone.
The cities’ expansion has caused concern for other architects as well. Architect Daniel Libeskind remarked in February that he refused to work for totalitarian regimes; his comment continues to remind other architects to reconsider their willingness to work for a government whose politics they might not agree with. Ultimately, as New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin explains, the question becomes,
By designing high-profile buildings that bolster the profile of a powerful client, do architects implicitly sanction the client’s actions or collaborate in symbolic mythmaking?
Photo by Noel in the Bahamas.