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Charlie Hussey defends China work

September 8 2011

Charlie Hussey defends China work
Charlie Hussey, director of Sutherland Hussey architects, has defended his practices active solicitation of work from China.

The practice completed their first project in the notionally communist state as recently as 2009, a timber canopy gateway to the Xiling ski resort near Chengdu.

That early foray has now been followed up with the design honours on Tongzhou tower, the third tallest building in Beijing and the conceptual design for a new city - again in Chengdhu province.

Hussey's success means the territory now accounts for some three quarters of the practices present workload, a statistic Hussey has few qualms with - despite continued human rights abuses by the Chinese government.

Speaking to the FT, Hussey said: “Whenever ethics in China is brought up, architects are always picked on. But we’re all trading with China. If Joe Bloggs buys a TV, he’s trading with China. Architects just deal with bigger pieces. There isn’t a single person in the UK who hasn’t traded with China.

 “It may be that we’re all being unethical, but the reality is that China will soon become the most powerful economy in the world and one can’t just bury one’s head; one needs to engage it, and it is changing.”

Ironically the practice is yet to complete a single building within their native Edinburgh.


#1 Posted by Barry on 8 Sep 2011 at 16:54 PM
Money talks, people walk!

All men will sell out for the right price. But in any case, Sutherland Hussey has no defence for that 'thing' they proposed in the V&A museum competition.That was indefensible. lol
#2 Posted by boab on 9 Sep 2011 at 07:37 AM
They have a nice wee job on site at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

passsed it the other day, looks quite cool
#3 Posted by Barry on 9 Sep 2011 at 09:24 AM
I agree with the sentiments of Charlie Hussey though -- architects are always condemned for working in 'dubious' countries.

But all of us trade with china -- there's not one of us who hasn't got household products with a 'made in China' badge on it.

And it is ironic that Hussey haven't completed a building in Edinburgh -- it's just the way of the world. Construction is booming in certain parts of the world and they're getting work in those areas.
#4 Posted by Divvv on 9 Sep 2011 at 12:21 PM
I think there is a difference between buying something that is 'made in China' and actively soliciting (i.e. choosing) to deal with the country.

Either you believe its OK to deal with China or you don't, but you can't use 'every one owns something made in china' as a justification- it would be impossible to not own something that, somewhere along the line, had been involved with China.
#5 Posted by Barry on 9 Sep 2011 at 15:02 PM

Disagree with you. Ultimately, Hussey get paid for working in China. And we, as consumers, consuming facilitate the Chinese economy by buying the products they produce.We both make an active choice to deal with China but in different ways.

We can also "not solicit' China by boycotting 'made in China' products.We don't.

So using silly moral posturing to hold architects to a different standard is silliness. What you're trying to advocate is that the buying products 'made in China' is different and 'more moral' than architects building in China. No it's not. We're both dealing with China in any regard.

Hussey has to make a living. Who's going to pay his bills and why should be have to forego his architectural career to pander to people who have issues with China but em, don't mind using products made in China. Total hypocrites.
#6 Posted by Barry on 9 Sep 2011 at 15:11 PM
And I agree with Hussey when he says : "Whenever ethics in China is brought up, architects are always picked on. But we’re all trading with China. If Joe Bloggs buys a TV, he’s trading with China. Architects just deal with bigger pieces. There isn’t a single person in the UK who hasn’t traded with China."

What would be achieved by architects not working in China? We as consumers of Chinese produce generate more wealth for China than architects designing buildings do.

And as for boycotting China based on 'ethical issues' -- well that's just silly in my view. No country in the world is perfect. We should boycott the UK then too for its less than perfect ethical issues i.e killing human lives in the mother's womb, illegal wars etc. Same too with just about every country on earth.

#7 Posted by Divvv on 10 Sep 2011 at 11:12 AM
Essentially what Hussey is saying above as "It might be unethical, but everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to do it too". It don't see that as justification.

I also don't see "having to make a living" as justification for anything. I have to make a living: it doesn't mean its morally OK for me to go about mugging grannies.

No one in the UK can 100% boycott China- just to take the TV example, the division of labour involves literally 1000's of different companies and products, from the money borrowed to manufacture it, to the ink on the instruction manual, to the ship used to move it across the globe. So to say that "Joe Bloggs" doesn’t boycott China because he bought a TV doesn't justify Hussey’s choice to work in China. To boycott China 100% is to not buy anything, from food to clothes to technology, or to have a bank account, pay taxes or work in a job that uses any of those things.

If Hussey came out and said "I don't care who employs me- I am an architect for sale, and will practice in any country, regardless of its governments' actions. I will design anything if the money is right, from hospitals to skyscrapers to torture rooms in Guantanamo Bay" Then I would respect that more than his "Joe Bloggs" excuse above. (Disagree with it; but still respect it)

Im not saying Hussey is wrong to deal with China, only that his reasons above is not justification; he is making excuses rather than holding is hands up and accepting responsibility for his choices.
Frank Lloyd Wright
#8 Posted by Frank Lloyd Wright on 10 Sep 2011 at 11:23 AM
It is also ridiculous to compare a ski resort with torture chambers at guantanomo bay, divvv. What about those tourists who may travel to china to use this resort, or indeed travel to china at all?

The most disappointing aspect of this story for me is that it is one of the first times in memory I can recall the work of what is one of scotland's finest practices, and it is basically a rabble-rousing article with no 'urban real
' qualities.

When will the next articles be published, slamming those who work in the design of animal testing labs, or Israel, or Russia, or in the petrochemical industries etc etc
#9 Posted by Barry on 10 Sep 2011 at 14:23 PM

You need to read Hussey's quotes again. What he's saying is that architects are held to a different standard to everyday consumers -- like you.And that's silly.And he sees architecture as a form of positive engagement (as it forces China to integrate more into the world.)

You admit you consume Chinese products, but are getting pissy about an architectural practice who is designing buildings in China. That's hypocritical of you.You take issue with Husseys justification of his reasons for working in China whilst explaining away why it's fine for you to use Chinese products.

You say "No one in the UK can 100% boycott China..". Em, yes they can. Humans DO NOT need televisions. They aren't essential to life. We desire them, not need them.You can boycott Chinese produce -- just live a life based upon using the bare essentials we need to survive i.e. food (not from China), clothing (not made in China) etc. It's absolutely possible.

So what if Hussey builds in China.So. It's unethical. And it's unethical to build in Scotland, England, France, USA, Japan etc. But only practices working in China are condemned. Who gets to decide that China is the pariah of the world when clearly all countries act appallingly?

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