Artist and activist Ai Weiwei has thoughts on the state of architecture and development in China over the past few, decades and how things are changing under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

“Everybody in China has been moved to a new location or a new city, new town, new apartment. And some have even moved several times,” he said during a recent panel discussion on Chinese architecture hosted by Asia Society Switzerland. “But with such a big movement, or revolutionary change, there is very little discussion or very little meaningful challenge — intellectual challenge — about what architecture is in this fast developing society.”

Despite the country's building boom, Ai says that the state of China's architectural philosphy has largely remained stagnant because conversation is stifled. In fact, his outlook on Chinese modern architecture is rather grim, saying the “whole structure is fatalistic.”

“The discussion does not benefit who is going to be profited. So authorities doesn’t like this kind of discussion — any discussion related to aesthetics. That means [conversation] about philosophy, legitimacy of power — then that’s very dangerous [to officials].”  

Ai spoke alongside Swiss architect Jacques Herzog and art collector and former Swiss ambassador to China Uli Sigg. The conversation was moderated by journalist Martin Meyer.