The artist who helped create China’s iconic new stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games – dubbed the ‘Birds Nest’ – has labelled it a regretful commission.

Ai Weiwei, who designed the stadium with Swiss-based Herzog & de Meuron, says he is ashamed his design has become a symbol of national development and that it has helped China wear a “pretend smile”, according to a report by news service Reuters.

“I turn down all demands to have photographs with it. I’m not interested,” the controversial artist and architect said.

“I would feel ashamed if I just designed something for glamour or to show some kind of fake image.”

Ai was raised in a labour camp in China in Xinjiang and has used his art to criticise politics, civil rights, corruption and education issues in his home country.