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The Architect’s Role in Shaping Society

March 1, 2013

The relationship between power and architecture is an endless source of reflections and debate. It is a good example of a complex issue to which there are no simple answers, no easy separation between good and bad such as Daniel Libeskind would like to suggest, as recently reported in the Italian press. Personally I share the more comprehensive approach presented by Dejan Sudjic in his essay “The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful and Their Architects Shape the World” where he succeeds in setting every piece of architecture into the narrative of its own historical, professional and individual situation. The purpose is to allow the reader to make his own opinion, being aware that history is permanently rewritten.

Norman Foster’s Pyramid of Peace in Astana

Norman Foster’s Pyramid of Peace in Astana

On the same line I find lot’s good food for thoughts in the point of view of artists reflecting on the role of the architects’ in shaping society, especially if they architects are architects themselves (Ai Weiwei) or when they reflect on their own role in shaping society (Adrian Paci).  This video by Nir Evron shows the Nahal Raviv facility, a newly built detention center located in Israel three miles from the Egyptian border. This huge prison camp, along with others alike and a new border fence, was built to accommodate 4,000 African migrants as signal of the strong governmental determination to stop illegal immigration.

The artist cuts the images together with a quiet and polite conversation between an architect and a young artist on the social responsibility of architects. Reading the presentation of the video the architect being interviewed turns out to be the one who designed the camp. Understandably he does not want to appear with his name or the name of the office, but the video artist tells us he is an experienced professional working extensively for the Israeli government and having designed large scale projects including residential settlements and army basis. His answers are sensible and I largely agree on them. On the other side, apparently there is also something going wrong, but to which extent is the architect co-responsible for that?

Read the original article on creativetimereports.org | Here a sharp review of Dejan Sudjic “Edifice Complex”.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mahmood Sairally, Dipl. Arch., Chatered Architect RIBA (ret.), HMRIAI, MMAA(Hon), BDB, Member l'Académie d'Architecture France permalink
    November 13, 2013 12:07 pm

    Architects whatever generation they belong are chronists of their time. they shape our Environment and should be apolitic. it is not true to say that the architects’ works are directed by politicians and big Money, no it is not or shall I say should not be governed by those but should create buildings and Environments for everybody to live humanly sound. It is easier to create for the rich as for the poor but the architects must create a harmonious and Sound human Environment for those poor People. It is their duties.

    • November 13, 2013 12:55 pm

      Dear Mahmood, your words are wise and I agree with you. I think it is useful to reflect and debate on the role of architects in society because it unveils a lot of aspects of how societies works.
      I think Architects can’t be much better then the society they are embedded in, they catalise and give shape to the energy flow within a society. On one side the powerful are obviously favored in producing their own landmarks. On the other hand what remains over decades are the signs of the times, the patterns of civilisations and societies. saluti da Milano! Antonio

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