How an Award Winning Chinese Building Demeans Architecture

The Guangzhou Opera House was recently recognized by Architectural Record with its "Best Public Project: Honor Award." Larry Speck argues why recognizing this poorly designed and executed building reflects poorly on the Architecture profession.

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."

Full Story: Top Architectural Record award for Guangzhou Opera House? Really?


Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
AICP CTP Storefont Display

The first online AICP* CTP exam prep class

Are you ready to take the AICP* Certified Transportation Planner exam?
Priced at $245 for May exam!

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.
Red necktie with map of Boston

Tie one on to celebrate your city

Choose from over 20 styles of neckties imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.