Your NPR news source

The Ethics of Building for the Olympics

SHARE The Ethics of Building for the Olympics
The Ethics of Building for the Olympics

Peking University Gymnasium (PKG)

In a recent address, one famed architect said his colleagues shouldn't work in autocratic countries. Others think architecture can affect positive change, but would still draw a line when it comes to big projects in authoritarian countries.

The “Bird’s Nest” and the “Water Cube” â€” have been a hit — and they'll outlast the rest of the Olympic spectacles in Beijing .

These athletic structures exemplify a larger building boom that's taking place in emerging markets, where ambitions are high and labor is cheap. Places like Dubai and China are showering superstar architects like Rem Koolhaas and Chicago 's Adrian Smith with money to create structures that defy the laws of physics and free economies. In many cases, neighborhoods are wiped off the map and thousands are displaced.

Sean Keller is an Architecture Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He wrote a critique of Beijing 's Olympic buildings for the latest edition Art Forum magazine.

Keller explains why the Chinese chose the “Bird's Nest” and the “Water Cube” as symbols of the Beijing Games…

More From This Show