‘Five hundred or more workers’

A construction site in Qatar. It ran with a Guardian news story. (Sean Gallup/AP)

A construction site in Qatar. It ran with a Guardian news story. (Sean Gallup/AP)

The stadium has been criticized for other reasons. (famousarchitect.blogspot.com)

Another reason to complain. (famousarchitect.blogspot.com)

That’s more lives than have been lost in some wars! How can “500 or more” migrant workers, mostly Indians, perish in the construction of a stadium? That is the cost, according to news reports, of work on Zaha Hadid’s soccer stadium in Qatar since 2012, excluding money. When asked about it, Hadid told the Guardian newspaper, “I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.” Asked if she was concerned, Hadid added: “Yes, but I’m more concerned about the deaths in Iraq as well, so what do I do about that? I’m not taking it lightly but I think it’s for the government to look to take care of. It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.”

When I first read of this on Friday I posted this comment:

 In 44 responses to Zaha’s remark, nobody mentioned that it was her Dukakis moment. Remember when Michael Dukakis, in a debate with Reagan veep George H.W. Bush during the 1988 presidential campaign, was asked whether, if his wife were raped and murdered, would he seek the death penalty for the killer? Dukakis gave a cold answer explaining his opposition to the death penalty without expressing any horror at the idea of his wife’s death. Many think it cost him the election.

But in fact, I believe Hadid’s response was worse, because a famous architect does indeed have in some degree a power of moral suasion over clients. Maybe she should not be designing stadiums for clients where working conditions are so poor that the death (if so) of hundreds in a construction project in the 21st century is conceivable. And if she must, she probably could have done something to improve those conditions, at least for this one job, and her cold response makes her thoughtlessness in that regard even more culpable, if not sinister – though I think at its top levels the practice of modern architecture is indeed sufficiently coldblooded and mercenary as to be dubbed sinister, if not evil.

I think almost any modern architect would have responded the same way as Hadid, and that the willingness to inflict such ugliness and sterility on a hapless world suggests an essential deficit in the makeup of the character of the profession as it is constituted today, at least at the level of the celebrity architect.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Other countries and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘Five hundred or more workers’

  1. Pingback: In defense of Zaha? | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: In defense of Zaha? | Architecture Here and There

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.