Why are starchitects so willing to do PR for despots?

The imagery, I suppose, is apt: the Herzog & de Meuron–designed Olympic stadium graces the front of a the new 10-yuan bill. After all, the Pritzker winners have lent their creative talents to the non-democratic Beijing government to help clean up its image, just in time for the Olympics -- and for a hefty fee. Their birdsnest of modernity replaces the face of Chairman Mao on the 10-yuan note.
Hrag Vartanian wonders why Western architects, like contemporary-art darlings H&dM, "are (so far) getting a free pass as they fellate dictators [...] for money and ego projects that will put forth their vision of a prettified (but not more humane) 21st C."

"Today most major architects don’t seem to blink when the latest dictator knocks on their door," he writes. "They blindly support regimes with severe human rights abuses and autocratic governments that only seek to bolster their cult of personality or empty ideology."

He raises some interesting questions, sparked in part by a quote from Daniel Libeskind -- "I won’t work for totalitarian regimes." -- and his modified version of the New York Times' list of starchitects who've taken gigs with despots, dictators and undemocratic regimes.


Anonymous said...

Maybe because the buildings will endure long after the gerontocracy is gone?

Building a stadium isn't quite the same as filming Triumph of the Will.

Anonymous said...

But who are they taking a paycheck from? Enduring history or oppressive leaders?