I finally watched the Olympics opening ceremony this morning and, while I know I'm not the first person to point this out, I'm so excited by how much of the Olympics' coverage to this point has been focused on the architecture. From the photos I've seen Herzog & de Meuron did a wonderful job with the Bird's Nest (above, photo by the NY Times). I have high hopes that seeing the transformative power of design (a concept I strongly believe in) will inspire others to become architects. Or even better, to respect what architect's do and to hire architects for design projects.
A long time ago (okay, when I was in grad school, so probably only about 5 or 6 years ago), I saw a Rem Koolhaas lecture at UCLA. He presented some very interesting statistics about the percentage of building projects designed by architects (as opposed to being owner or builder designed). I don't have the numbers, but as I recall, the percentage in Europe was very high (not surprising), the percentage in the USA was about middle and the percentage in China was very, very low. It seems to me that as the building boom in China has taken off, this may be changing, but still, most the of the high profile projects have gone to well-known western architects. It just seems that there is not much of a culture of respect for Chinese architects in China. I hope that is changing.