Will Every Industry Have Its 'Napster Moment'?

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This Spiegel Online article rather stopped me in my tracks. Acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid is currently designing 11 projects across China including the quite beautiful Wangjing SOHO complex in Beijing. It seems that in the land where anything can be copied, architectural ‘pirates’ have cloned the design of the complex and construction teams are busy building a replica in faraway Chongqing.

The race is on to see which version will finish building first. ‘Pirate architects’ are using digital technologies including imaging software to cut-and-paste building designs from around the world and build 3D models to enable them to create carbon copies. Last year, the entire Austrian hamlet (and UNESCO world heritage site) of Hallstat was reproduced in Southern China. The Der Spiegel article about the cloning of Hadid’s work led the Design Council to question whether this was architecture’s Napster moment:

Beyond the archetypes of digital disruption (music, news and publishing), the seeming ease and casualness with which architectural designs and whole buildings and villages are being ‘pirated’ is quite amazing. Clay Shirky recently wrote (with typical eloquence) about how massive open online courses (or moocs) are the education sector’s MP3 – their Napster moment is happening right now. With the potential of 3D printers to make distributed manufacturing pervasive, this is surely a question we’re going to be asking a lot more.

HT @amandagore for the link

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