Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why I will boycott the Olympics

Two reasons why I will not watch the games being held in the Chinese capital (and how disgusting that they can be held in a police state!):

From the Financial Times, July 2, 2008 (excerpt from "China tries to muzzle quake victim parents" by Jamil Anderlini):

Chinese security forces are putting pressure on angry parents to abandon demands for a full investigation into why so many schools collapsed in the May earthquake in Sichuan province and have rounded up human rights workers in the earthquake-ravaged region.

In tent cities that have sprung up throughout the region, soldiers carrying batons patrol the streets and security agents and police have stepped up efforts to muzzle any sign of “social instability”.

An atmosphere of anxiety reigns among the parents of children killed in school collapses in the towns of Mianzhu and Dujiangyan as government and security officials apply increasing pressure on them to drop demands for a full investigation.A parent in Dujiangyan said that officials had said “not to make trouble” and to quietly accept cash compensation of Rmb 12,000 ($1,750) per child with the promise of a further Rmb 20,000 ($2,917) to come later.

Police have harassed and followed journalists trying to interview parents in the town of Mianzhu who openly discussed their grievances at first but later asked to be left alone after meeting with local government officials…Beijing ordered a nationwide crackdown on dissent over the weekend, calling on all officials to ensure “zero mass petitions to Beijing, zero petitions to provincial capitals and no mass incidents during the Olympic Games period”.

From The Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2008 (excerpt from "In China, a Show of Force" by Shai Oster):

An attempt by a Wall Street Journal reporter to converse with a group of Tibetans who said they were from Ganzi, a heavily ethnic Tibetan region in the western part of Sichuan, abutting Tibet proper, was quickly interrupted by police Sunday. About a dozen men wearing helmets and holding their fingers on the triggers of machine guns surrounded the group and ordered the Tibetans aside while they checked the paperwork of the foreign reporter. Any photos showing monks or police were ordered erased.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

World Monuments Fund and Modernism

I have been working at the World Monuments Fund since January 2008. WMF is a nonprofit international organization dedicated to preserving architectural/cultural heritage sites around the globe. Our biggest advocacy tool is the World Monuments Watch, announced every other year, which highlights 100 of the ‘most endangered sites’ across the globe. We collect hundreds of nominations (from governments, organizations, individuals, etc.), and the top 100 are selected by an independent panel of experts.

At the moment, I am knee-deep in Modernism. We have a “Modernism at Risk” initiative here at WMF, to bring attention to and help save important works of Modern architecture. Our first Modernism Prize, to be awarded biennially, is being presented to a German architecture firm (Brenne Gesellschaft von Architekten mbH) on July 10 in New York. The firm restored the ADGB Trade Union School designed by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer of the Bauhaus. It was designed and built between 1928-1930. In 1933 the Nazis took it over and used it as an SS training facility. It was used as a trade school again after the War, but then was abandoned, being saved from demolition in 2001. It has been restored and is now functioning again as a school.

At first, I found it difficult to love the Modern buildings I was researching and writing about, especially the Brutalist ones (basically anything by Marcel Breuer!). However, the ideas behind Modernism won me over, and I am proud to be taking part in this effort to preserve the recent architectural past.