In 2011, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times memorably pondered, “Can Greeks Become Germans?”, which James Taranto filed under “Breaking News From 1941” in his “Best of the Web” column in the Wall Street Journal.
Today, the New York Times runs a headline that could also be ripped from the headlines of what the boys in Belgium like to call “The European Civil War” these days — “The Best Hope for France’s Young? Get Out.”
We hired a human rights lawyer from Human Rights Watch when we started on the Abu Dhabi project. Both we and our client were interested in making sure the project was in the clear. There was a time when they were being beat up on for the conditions of temporary workers. And they did something about it: They built relatively comfortable camps. These issues are important to me when I take a project.
If we’re hired to do a project in China, we’ll make it the best. We’re hoping to do a little museum there, in Quanzhou, our first mainland project. The artist Cai Guo-Qiang likes my work, and it’s his hometown. He paid for the initial design, actually. The Communist Party secretary wrote me a letter to say that she loves it. But whether we’ll get to build it, I don’t know. It’s hard to work in China.
* * * * * *
Hillary Clinton, in her farewell speech as secretary of state, picked up on a theme in my work. It was very cool, but I was shocked when she mentioned me! She said that my work was “intentional,” that political structures have to look beyond Greece, beyond columns, to a new architecture for a new world — like Frank Gehry, she said. Democracy, obviously, is something we don’t want to give up, but it does create chaos. It means the guy next door can do what he wants, and it creates a collision of thinking. In cities, that means people build whatever they want.
I think the best thing is to have a benevolent dictator — who has taste! It’s really hard to get consensus, to have a tastemaker. There is no Robert Moses anymore. Michael Bloomberg wants to be one. In fact, he promised he would build 10 more of my buildings in New York, but, you know, he hasn’t yet. Architecture’s difficult … [sigh].
Finally, it’s all this and World War II on the front page of the Austin-American Statesman today:
As the Professor deadpans, “Bad Optics.” Indeed.™