Stop the mess

The Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture is right. In terms of public tenders and direct adjudications for major building projects, Macau “is a mess”. It’s worth noting that in some cases the government decides to use direct adjudications for certain projects, particularly when it wants to ensure that buildings and infrastructure here are connected to some of the world’s biggest names in architecture. And Pritzker Prize winners are – as recognized by the professionals themselves – as famous as you can get. As Wikipedia puts it, simply, the Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually “to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture” That is why everywhere in the world, cities choose names of reference to design important projects. From Philip Johnson in 1979 to I.M.Pei in 1983 – who was invited to design Macau’s Science Center – to Oscar Niemeyer in 1988, responsible for building Brasilia’s Congress, in Brazil in 1960. Also Álvaro Siza Vieira in 1992 and the late Zaha Hadid in 2004. Her recent passing means the first female winner of the renowned prize will sadly not see her distinctive Macau project finished, the latest tower being added to Melco Crown’s Entertainment City of Dreams. But for the city’s international name and fame, the building will be here, forever connected to her. “It’s a mess,” vents the Secretary. But it should not be. At least not when there’s a political reason to adjudicate directly. It can be a mess when there’s no political excuse, but that was not the case here. However it was on so many other occasions in the recent past. Other projects have been given directly to architects in the past, and nobody seemed to worry. Even when the architects were too close to the local political power circle, and ethics, morals and common sense should have advised for a public tender, still it was not done. And, again, nobody seemed to complain. Secretary Tam is right. This is a mess. And it is time to give transparency to these procedures once and for all. Hopefully, this case will do just that, helping our political decision makers and high level government officials. Because from now on we will all pay much more attention to the adjudication practices here and discuss the reasons behind future decisions.