Dezeen Magazine

Eight Inc proposal for Notre-Dame roof in structural glass

Dezeen's top 10 controversial stories of 2019

This year had its fair share of provocative stories, from the backlash against concrete to a chair that prevents "manspreading". For our review of the year, digital editor Karen Anderson looks at 10 of the most polarising.


Huge fire breaks out at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

One of the biggest stories this year was news that Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris had caught fire.

Outrageous proposals for how best to rebuild the gothic building – including a tower topped with a beam of light – attracted more than 810 comments between them.

Commenters were relieved though when Miysis Studio eventually suggested combining a reconstruction of Notre-Dame's spire with a modern glazed roof: "I love this, out of all the ridiculous designs that have been proposed, this is really on point. Incorporating the original spire design is an absolute essential."

Find out more about the Notre Dame fire ›

Architects urged to cancel concrete

Architects should give up concrete say experts at Architecture of Emergency climate summit

The story that received the second most comments this year was a report on the Architecture of Emergency climate summit, where experts said that architects should give up concrete.

One reader joked that maybe architects should give up using bricks as well.

Another was confused: "So what is up then with the recent surge of concrete designer buildings and furniture? For the last 20 years concrete has been pushed as sustainable, now, this week it's not? Is coffee good for you or not? I need another cup of coffee!"

Find out more about the Architecture of Emergency climate summit ›

Laila Laurel manspreading chair

Laila Laurel's chair provides a solution to manspreading

Brighton University graduate Laila Laurel caused uproar with her design for a tongue-in-cheek chair that offers a solution to "manspreading".

"How about we have an anti-womanspreading chair," suggested one commenter. "One that makes it impossible for women to put their handbags on the empty seat next to them?"

"This is hilarious and totally nailed its purpose," replied another. "To the guys being super upset: the aim of this design was to offend you. What, don't you have a sense of humour?"

Find out more about Laila Laurel's chair›

Architects who don't pay interns "shouldn't be given prestigious commissions" says designer who revealed Ishigami unpaid internships

News that this year's Serpentine Pavilion designer Junya Ishigami offers unpaid internships prompted a polarised response from readers.

New York designer Karim Rashid defended the use of unpaid internships, saying young designers can learn more working at a studio than studying at a fee-paying university.

"I learnt more in the first month in a small office than three years of architecture school," agreed one reader. "Never work for free. Ever," was the reaction from another.

"What if overpriced higher education and unpaid internships are both bad at the same time?" offered one commenter.

Find out more about unpaid internships›

Patrik Schumacher

Architecture education is in crisis and detached from the profession, says Schumacher

As part of the conversation about education, Patrik Schumacher claimed that architecture schools are disconnected from the real world.

"For the first time ever I agree with Schumacher," said one reader. "Add in the fact that architecture schools charge an arm and a leg for this stuff, unethically, since architects typically don't make a ton of money coming out of school and just end up being in debt forever."

"Though I largely agree with what he's saying, teaching everyone parametricism as the hegemony is just exchanging one academic circle jerk for another," replied another.

Schumacher also clashed with Harriet Harriss over architecture's long-hours culture at our Dezeen Day conference.

Find out more about Schumacher's thoughts on education ›

Wallgren Arkitekter and BOX Bygg create parametric tool Finch that generates adaptive plans

Rise of artificial intelligence means architects are "doomed" says Sebastian Errazuriz

Readers disagreed with designer Sebastian Errazuriz who claimed that ninety per cent of architects will lose their jobs as artificial intelligence takes over the design process.

"The only architects that are doomed are the ones that won't adapt," said one reader.

"Everybody just calm down," said another. "Designers will still have to set all the parameters and make sure all criteria are met. This should be a useful tool to help streamline the process and allow the exploration of many more variations toward the best ultimate design. We're not going anywhere. If anything, this will be empowering."

Find out more about Sebastian Errazuriz's claims ›

Parents "should start thinking about a bulletproof backpack" following latest mass shootings

Commenters were alarmed after the CEO of self-defence brand Guard Dog told Dezeen that children going to school or public places should be given bulletproof backpacks.

"Oh America. Hang your head in shame that it's come to this!" said one reader.

"This is not the solution," said another. "It once again removes the responsibility to act from those in power and places it on the victims. This is a political problem that needs a political solution. Stop wasting time with this and call your political rep and demand that they do something."

Readers were also shocked when American firm Tower Pinkster designed a school in Michigan with the aim of reducing the number of student casualties in the event of a terror attack.

Find out more about the bulletproof backpacks ›

Dirtiest Porn Ever by Pornhub aims to raise Monet to remove plastic from oceans

Pornhub launches Dirtiest Porn Ever campaign to clean up the world's oceans

Readers cracked jokes after adult video website Pornhub released a movie filmed on a litter-filled beach, in an attempt to raise money for removal of plastic from the world's oceans.

"Pornhub – the perfect place to get a computer virus," teased one commenter.

Others were impressed: "One might laugh but it had 33.5 billion visits to the website in 2018 and its top 20 countries by web traffic are majority OECD member countries. I think they are putting their platform to good use. This reaches more people than a lot of newspapers."

Find out more about the Dirtiest Porn Ever›

Kanye West's prefabricated affordable Yeezy Home units take inspiration from the Star Wars films and might be used as underground homeless housing.

Kanye West is building Star Wars-themed housing for the homeless

Hip-hop artist and producer Kanye West was criticised after revealing prototypes for prefabricated, affordable Yeezy Home units. Inspired by the Star Wars films, they are designed to be built underground.

"Why doesn't Mr Kanye himself live in an underground house? Or maybe I'm wrong, and one of his 100 villas is underground?" said one reader.

Not long after building started, West was forced to demolish the prototypes having failed to secure a building permit.

Find out more about the Yeezy Home units ›

Elon Musk's Neuralink implant will "merge" humans with AI

Commenters were surprised to learn that Tesla founder Elon Musk had launched tech startup Neuralink, which builds implants that connect human brains with computer interfaces via artificial intelligence.

"A few months ago he was adamantly against AI. What happened to 'AI is more dangerous than nuclear weapons?'" asked one reader. "I guess Neuralink got some top-notch back-engineered tech that his bank account couldn't say no to."

Others questioned whether this is the future we want. Musk also caused controversy in November by revealing the Cybertruck, a bulletproof electric vehicle clad in the same kind of steel used to make SpaceX's Starship space craft.

Find out more about Neuralink ›