The Olympics are about to begin in Beijing and Jacques Herzog is defending his firm’s decision to build China’s grand propagandistic gesture to the world: the wicker toilet seat building, I mean the “bird’s nest” (pictured above)
Last week in Der Spiegel he defended his decision with a classic piece of moral relativism, thankfully the reporters call him out on his bullshit:
Herzog: For us, this stadium is more than just a building. It’s a part of a city. Vision is always such a big word, but our vision was to create a public space, a space for the public, where social life is possible, where something can happen, something that can, quite deliberately, be subversive or — at least — not easy to control or keep track of.
SPIEGEL: Your architecture as an act of resistance? Aren’t you exaggerating?
Herzog: No. We see the stadium as a type of Trojan horse. We fulfilled the spatial program we were given, but interpreted it in such a way that it can be used in different ways along it perimeters. As a result, we made everyday meeting places possible in locations that are not easily monitored, places with all kinds of niches and smaller segments.
“Locations that are not easily monitored”…Are you serious?
Herzog then goes on the defensive and attacks people who would’ve said no to such a posh commission as “idiots”…nevermind that supporting a totalitarian regime with human rights abuses up the wazoo is faaaar more idiotic!
SPIEGEL: ….Did this make the commission so tempting as to override moral reservations?
Herzog: Only an idiot — and not a person who thinks in moral terms would have turned down this opportunity — would have said no. I know that there are architects who now claim that they would never have even considered building in China. This is both a naïve and arrogant position, one that reflects a lack of knowledge of and respect for the incredible cultural achievements this country has continuously provided over the last 5,000 years and still provides today.
This is my favorite part…maybe I should subscribe to Spiegel:
SPIEGEL: And the migrant workers?
Herzog: No one can approve of the miserable conditions under which people work there. It isn’t just the migrant workers, but the entire factory system in China, which produces jeans, shirts and toys for the world, that works under such conditions. It is not within our power to change the conditions for migrant workers, nor is it our responsibility…
SPIEGEL: Excuse me, but your firm is the most sought-after architecture firm in the world. We find it hard to believe that you are unable to exert any influence whatsoever.
Herzog: We can always exchange a few friendly words with the mayor, but the realities have changed in construction management. We are dealing with a world that, paradoxically enough, is often at odds with the architecture…
I suggest you read the whole interview to discover how crazy Herzog sounds. Check out this unbelievably propagandistic poster at the entrance to the Olympic Stadium construction site. And some photos of the migrant workers that toiled for Herzog’s “vision” here, here and here.