Magnificent 21st century architecture, but at what cost?

beijingstadium2.jpg

It’s a moot point whether a country with a human rights record as appalling as China’s should be hosting the Olympic games at all. According to Amnesty, sports stadia are often used for public sentencing rallies where people hear their death sentences in front of packed crowds. They are then taken away and shot.

So its with mixed feelings that I want to praise the design of the magnificant national stadium, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and DeMeuron. It’s such an interesting structure, regular and chaotic all at the same time. It mirrors the energy of buildings by Daniel Liebskind and Zara Hadid, but feels far less in your face. It’s a truly breathtaking building and you can see more amazing images over at the Inhabitat website.

The optimsist in me hopes that the focus of the world’s attention on China as it hosts the games, which start a year today, will be a catalyst for reform. Rising living standard are very good, but without a free press, independent trade unions and a multi-party electoral system, China remains something I feel difficult about celebrating, even though the country fascinates me so much. It also needs to stop shooting people –  full stop – not just in sports stadia.