The Guangzhou Opera House, designed by world-renowned Zaha Hadid Architects, is a stunning building - at least from afar. But using his own close-up photographs of the building's poor detailing as evidence, Speck, a principal in the architectural firm of PageSoutherlandPage and a professor, as well as the former dean, in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, wonders if any of the members of the awards jury (which "included editors from Architectural Record and respected Chinese architects and experts") actually visited the building in person.
Arguing that the building's problems result from poor design, rather than the typical "arrogant" explanation of a "Chinese building industry not yet up to the visionary imagination of the designer," Speck points out the design flaws evident on the exterior and interior of the building.
"Promoting clearly flawed design as the 'best' we have to offer is demeaning and makes us look ridiculous to people outside the architecture subculture," concludes Speck. "This is how we lose power in the larger society and become marginalized as a discipline. Elevating 'stars' and 'signature design' at the expense of deeply rooted and rigorous standards of excellence does a disservice to our field."