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Large Structures

In his interview with Detail, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei declares, “I feel an obligation to stand up for the oppressed.” Weiwei’s fame in the West makes him particularly well suited to speaking out openly about the political situation in China. His commentary on political freedom and human rights is shocking. In these areas, Ai Weiwei tells us, nothing at all has improved since Beijing was chosen to host the Olympic Games. There has only been economical progress. The brutal suppression of the Tibet uprising this past March revealed once again quite plainly the dark side of Beijing’s communist regime, though the ensuing talk of a potential boycott of the ­Olympics did go against the grain. After all, ­China’s leaders want to use the mega-event to put the spotlight on themselves and their country’s best qualities – cosmopolitan, peaceable and modern – and architecture is intended to make a substantial contribution to that end. In a Herculean effort, a large number of showcase buildings were erected, some of which truly are highlights, such as the National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron.

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