The Beijing skyline is constantly changing and growing; the CCTV HQ – dubbed ‘Big Pants’ – and the new People’s Daily building – aka the mostphallic structure ever – are amongst our favourite recent erections (pardon the pun). But not everyone is a fan. Chinese President Xi Jinping has joined the debate on contemporary architecture – and dictated that Beijing is no longer allowed any more ‘weird buildings’.
This isn’t the first time modern architectural feedback has come from an unlikely critic. Prince Charles announced that the planned extension for the National Gallery in London, ‘is like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend’.
These interjections are seldom helpful. As architect and TV presenter Charles Luxton points out, the debate is simplified, becoming ‘what does it look like?’ not ‘is it any good?’ – and that’s dangerous. Zaha Hadid’s new vision for the Science Museum could be described as ‘weird’, as could Frank Gehry’s new Louis Vuitton building, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Without those risk-takers, the mavericks, the rule-breakers, boundaries will never be pushed and innovation will struggle. After all, for every Chinese President and Prince who doesn’t like a building, there are a great many people who do.