Dezeen Magazine

Trump Cushion by Mr Bingo

Dezeen's top 10 controversial stories of 2016

The last 12 months have been defined by contentious statements, tragic losses and tumultuous political events. Continuing our review of the year, social media editor Trudie Carter selects the top 10 stories that caused the most controversy in 2016. 

Government to launch inquiry into impact of Brexit on creative industries

Brexit throws UK creative industries into state of uncertainty

The UK's decision to leave the European Union in a landmark referendum sent shockwaves around the world. UK architects and designers, who voted overwhelmingly to remain, called the result a "nightmare" and "devastating".

Threats to the Erasmus exchange programme began to emerge and architecture firms were forced to lay off staff in anticipation of a construction slowdown. In response, Dezeen gathered UK architects and designers to reflect on Brexit and turn it into an opportunity – resulting in the Brexit Design Manifesto.

Read more about Brexit ›

Trump AIA apology

AIA issues apology after Donald Trump support backlash

Donald Trump's scandal-ridden campaign and US election victory encompassed the shifting political mood that gripped 2016. Leaders of the American Institute of Architects faced public outrage after releasing a statement pledging to support the president-elect, and were forced to issue an apology.

Trump was also the inspiration behind a host of satirical designs, including a poo-shaped ice lolly and a whoopee cushion. Mexican firm Estudio 3.14 made headlines for visualising Trump's infamous border wall as a bright pink structure in the spirit of Mexican architect Luis Barragán.

Read more about Donald Trump ›


Patrik Schumacher calls for social housing and public space to be scrapped

Zaha Hadid's successor Patrik Schumacher is no stranger to controversy, having ruffled feathers earlier this year with his views on Brexit and the Pritzker Prize. But it was his World Architecture Festival speech that became the most commented story on Dezeen this year.

Schumacher called for markets to be deregulated, social housing scrapped and public spaces such as Hyde Park privatised and built over. In 2016's tense political climate, his words sparked widespread outrage, triggered several opinion columns and caused Zaha Hadid's friends and family to distance themselves from his remarks.

Read more about Patrik Schumacher ›

London mayor launches inquiry into finances of contentious Garden Bridge

Garden Bridge moves towards construction despite ongoing controversy

Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge hit multiple obstacles this year, amid growing public unrest over its spiralling costs. The newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan suspended construction  and later launched an inquiry into the project, promising that no more public money would be spent.

Two studios unveiled cheaper alternative designs and Heatherwick was forced to defend the project after a BBC report discovered a £22 million funding gap.

Read more about Garden Bridge ›

Apple AirPod wireless headphones

Apple's AirPod headphones connect wirelessly to iPhones and other devices

Was 2016 the year Apple's market dominance began to wane? Its new releases failed to excite the design community that had once been so loyal to the tech giant. Dezeen readers said the iPhone 7 was "not innovative", while the design of Apple's new wireless headphones – which look identical to the current EarPods but without the wire – was described as "lazy".

Apple then unveiled its updated MacBook Pro laptop, which includes a touch-sensitive second screen, attracting claims that tech rival Microsoft's new releases were better.

Read more about Apple ›

Tate Modern visitors accused of spying on Neo Bankside residents

Tate Modern visitors accused of spying on Neo Bankside residents

Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed Neo Bankside apartments hit headlines after accusing visitors to Tate Modern's newly-opened Switch House extension of spying on them. The gallery's neighbours threatened legal action after it emerged that visitors to the Tate's new observation deck were using binoculars and cameras to peer into their multi-million-pound homes.

Outgoing Tate galleries director Nicholas Serota caused further controversy by wading into the feud and advising the Neo Bankside residents to get net curtains to protect their privacy.

Read more about Tate Modern spying on Neo Bankside ›

NLÉ's Makoko Floating School in Lagos Lagoon

Kunlé Adeyemi's floating school posed "danger to the kids," headmaster claims

This year, the multiple award-winning Makoko Floating School collapsed in heavy rainfall just weeks after its architect Kunlé Adeyemi won a Silver Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale for the project.

The half-boat, half-building built for the small African fishing village of Lagos had been decommissioned for several months after functioning as a school for three years. However, a community leader in Lagos then claimed pupils were evacuated three months previous over safety concerns.

Read more about Makoko Floating School ›

The Kardashians

Kardashians discuss book about famous architect "Le Courvoisier"

2016 proved that no aspect of culture is out of reach for reality TV stars the Kardashians, arguably America's most famous family. An exchange between Kris Jenner and Khloe Kardashian name-checking legendary architect Le Corbusier aired on Keeping Up With The Kardashians in July.

Dezeen's coverage of the episode prompted a backlash from readers, who questioned whether popular culture can have a place on a design website.

Read more about the Kardashians ›


Tesla driver killed in first fatal crash using Autopilot

Driverless vehicles were all the rage this year, but safety implications was hotly contested after the driver of an electric Tesla car became the first fatal victim of the technology. Joshua Brown was killed after the car's Autopilot mode failed to recognise an oncoming lorry.

This year also saw a self-driving vehicle by Google crash into a bus in California – although Google has since announced it is shelving its driverless car plans.

Read more about driverless cars ›

e15 claims bestselling IKEA bed is a copy of its design

Bestselling IKEA bed infringes design right claims e15

German brand e15 announced it will take IKEA to Germany's highest court over a bed it claims is copied from one of its own designs, prompting a discussion about whether the "basic" bed should be allowed design rights.

This isn't the first time IKEA has been in hot water – the furniture giant settled out of court with American furniture brand Emeco, which accused it of copying the design of the 20-06 stacking aluminium chair by architect Norman Foster.

Read more about IKEA ›