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Elon Musk XPrize Carbon Removal competition

The best Dezeen comments of 2021

Plenty of design and architecture news got people talking in 2021. For our review of year, digital and engagement editor Karen Anderson picks out 10 stories where comments from Dezeen readers caught the eye.

Elon Musk
Photo is by Duncan Hull

Elon Musk is "the biggest architect of our time" says Jan Boelen

Design curator and educator Jan Boelen sparked debate by calling Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk the world's greatest living architect.

Boelen argued that the South African-born billionaire is thinking on a more ambitious scale than any other living figure and is reshaping the world through his businesses.

"Or maybe he's a cook as he's cooking up all these great ideas?" commented Zea Newland. "Or a composer since he's bringing us the symphonies of the future? Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur and he pushes people to accomplish great things, which is awesome. Let's just leave it at that and stop creating these cults around mortals."

"Musk is a patron of the profession," added JZ. "Of many professions. He's leveraged amazing amounts of resources to see his vision through. And by recruiting good people. He's not a Tesla or an Einstein or an Edison let alone a Corb, Mies or Wright. They knew how to roll up their shirt sleeves and get it done."

Find out more about Boelen's thoughts on Musk ›

Aerial view of forest

Planting trees "doesn't make any sense" in the fight against climate change due to permanence concerns, say experts

Our story quoting experts who said planting trees "doesn't make any sense" in the fight against climate change" triggered a furious reaction from readers.

Many of the specialists quoted claim afforestation is not a reliable enough method of long-term carbon sequestration since the trees need to be left growing for decades.

"Absolute garbage," Rory wrote. "Trees have a massive potential for capturing carbon."

Michael Wigle was more sympathetic: "Saying you are offsetting carbon by planting a tree is nonsense. That doesn't mean we shouldn't invest more time and effort into re-establishing true old-growth forests and greater biodiversity."

Find out more about planting trees in the fight against climate change ›

Capitol Castle by Opposite Office

Opposite Office proposes turning US Capitol into "fortress to protect democracy"

Architecture studio Opposite Office caused controversy with a proposal for fortifying the US Capitol building in Washington DC.

Named Capitol Castle, the concept was created in reaction to the invasion of the building by Donald Trump supporters back in January following his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

Readers weren't keen. "A fortress around the Capitol is the exact opposite of democracy," said S.P. "Terrible idea."

Alfred Hitchcock agreed: "Ironic? If so, it's really unfunny. Five people needlessly died there. It's just self-promotional idiocy. It will probably have the opposite effect and create a backlash."

Find out more about Capitol Castle ›

Police raid Antepavilion office in London
Image courtesy of Antepavilion

Footage of "sinister" police raid on Antepavilion building triggers anger ahead of tensegrity structure unveiling

Readers were horrified by footage showing more than 40 police officers storming an arts building and arresting the organisers of the annual Antepavilion architecture charity competition.

It is thought that police believed the canalside Hoxton Docks art building in east London was being used by environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion to prepare for protests.

"I didn't realise architecture was so dangerous," said Jolalala. "Perhaps it should be outlawed altogether? It is strange that they needed 52 officers to arrest one unarmed arts producer. They must be very afraid of us creative folk."

Heywood Floyd was also annoyed: "Meanwhile stereotypical football hooligans overrun the gates at Wembley for the Euro final".

Find out more about the police raid ›

Corten house by Barefoot Architects
Photo is by Anthony Coleman

Barefoot Architects tucks weathering steel house and courtyard behind old brick wall

Barefoot Architects built a Corten steel-clad house behind an existing brick wall in Bristol, England, sparking debate amongst commenters. The wall features graffiti and a rare built-in Edwardian post box.

"Amazed at the negative comments," said JZ. "Highly urban, highly contextual, and constantly in flux if the owners continue to allow people to express themselves. Graffiti is an art form folks. As far as I'm concerned, these owners are patrons."

Apsco Radiales disagreed: "Graffiti is vulgar and it's vandalism. Why don't you let some 'artists' deface the walls of your house if you think it gives it 'character'?"

Find out more about the graffiti-covered house ›

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal
Photo is by Laurent Chalet

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal win Pritzker Architecture Prize 2021

When social housing architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal were named the 2021 winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, it catalysed conversation.

The founders of Lacaton & Vassal were awarded for their body of work that "reflects architecture's democratic spirit" and their "commitment to a restorative architecture".

Koba was pleased: "Excellent choice, an outstanding architectural team."

Archi agreed: "I'm glad that the jury is moving away from high profile starchitects towards a statement that the deserving designers are those who are making a deep regional impact at a variety of scales, typologies, and budgets. Designers that elevate the 'everyday' are far more important than those only working on silver platter commissions."

Find out more about the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2021 ›

O-Tower, infinity loop skyscraper by BIG in Hangzhou

BIG designs "infinity loop" skyscraper for OPPO in Hangzhou

Commenters were amused by Danish architecture studio BIG's design for a research and development building in Hangzhou named the O-Tower.

Described by BIG as being infinity-loop shaped, the skyscraper, for Chinese smartphone manufacturer OPPO, was designed to "connect ground to sky in a continuous loop of collaboration".

"Finally a women-inspired building," said Indrė Butkutė. "Great!"

"It's definitely not phallic," added Sigmund. "Quite the opposite, actually."

"I just love it! " concluded Hotte. "First we had all the dildo towers, now we get vulvas! Equality is coming!"

Find out more about the O-Tower ›

The Line Saudi Arabia
Image courtesy of Neom

Saudi Arabia announces plans for a 100-mile, car-free linear city called The Line

Readers weren't convinced by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman's plans to build a 100-mile belt of zero-energy communities for a million people.

The linear city in Saudi Arabia would have no cars or streets and residents would live within a five-minute walk of essential facilities.

"Only a train would think that's a cool city layout," said Zea Newland.

"The idiotic idea of linear cities comes up probably every decade," added Gudjon Thor Erlendsson. "It needs to be reiterated that this is a terrible idea. The transport length is extremely inefficient and this can be proven with simple modelling or mathematics. It looks cool from 10,000 feet up but it's all form, no function."

Find out more about The Line ›

Coso male contraceptive device by Rebecca Weiss

Rebecca Weiss designs ultrasound-powered male contraceptive device

Few stories divided readers more than German graduate Rebecca Weiss' design for a male contraceptive device called Coso, which won a James Dyson Award.

Weiss's device uses ultrasound waves to temporarily halt sperm regeneration. To use it, a person would fill the device with water up to the indicated mark, turn it on so it heats to operating temperature, and sit for a few minutes with their testicles dipped into it.

"It sounds to me like it requires men to put their balls in the microwave," said Sim. "Not sure that doesn't have long-term consequences for their health."

"Yet we have been totally cool for women to have literal mechanical devices inserted into them, take hormone-manipulating drugs, have implants, or even in some cases injections..." replied Nimdoorquoi.

Find out more about Coso ›

Affirmation Tower by Adjaye Associates
Image courtesy of the Peebles Corporation

Adjaye Associates proposes inverted supertall skyscraper for New York

Our story about Adjaye Associates' design for a supertall skyscraper in New York, which has a series of cantilevers to give it a dramatic form, attracted nearly 100 reader comments.

Named Affirmation Tower, the skyscraper was designed for a 1.2-acre vacant plot of land at 418 11th Avenue in Manhattan.

"Next step: horizontal skyscrapers," remarked Stefano Parodi.

"This proposal appears greedy and its irrational structural approach is wilfully discombobulating and perturbing – top-heavy and as if about to topple," wrote Ralph Kent. "People will naturally start to question if it's client greed or the architect's attention-seeking character that is the driving force."

Find out more about Affirmation Tower ›

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Dezeen is the world's most commented architecture and design magazine, receiving thousands of comments each month from readers. Keep up to date on the latest discussions on our comments page.