‘People’ as clients or human beings? 2012, Sky high to ground Zero.
Curiousity and questions based on my architectural studies.
Architecture as a business. The title of the lecture bothered me somewhat, no doubt architecture can be a business, and it is in many cases a business and an office. However as we moved towards the topic of work ethics and managing the office, the conversation of work for people and people for work, was not what I expected. In the lecture the idea of ‘work for people and people for work’ was explored in the definition of, working as an employee and employer, discussing matters such as expectation, what you bring to the office, etc. However when the phase ‘work for people and people for work’ came up, it made me question a conflicting matter, of work ethics as an architect. In the definition of architecture for humanity, over architecture for business means.
Work for people;
Architecture to serve humanity. Not related to or as a business, in fact possibly non-profitable. Instead architecture that aids the environment and society. Such as charity organisations that helps to design and build during crisis. Bringing architecture back down to the most primitive needs, building shelters, homes and other necessities. To see ‘people’ as human beings, more than just clients who funds our salary.
People for work;
Architecture as a business and the need for consumerism. The ‘people’ as our clients, we design to serve. Commercial architecture, luxury housing, high rises, etc. To design for beauty, conceptual theories, the grandeur of being an architect.
There are of many forms of practices, each has different interest, goals and specialty. But in particular, here comparing the most contrasting kind of architectural practice, architecture in its most corporate form, and architecture as a charity. A key example would be Architecture for humanities. It was an organisation which was established in 1999, to provide professional design to communities in need. They design and built emergency housing projects, paper churches, tents, primary schools, clinics, water system etc. They closed down in January 2015 due to bankruptcy and the last executive director, said that the failure was that the organisation grew too fast, and the founders were ‘more visionaries than business people’. Although the main headquarters closed down, AFH has influenced many humanitarian architectural projects and created global awareness during their 16 years of practice. There are still many small charities succeeded their legacy in what they do, architecture practice other than the form of business.
“The biggest challenge is yet to come…. Now there is beauty on the outside; how do we come back and build the infrastructure within the human soul?” - Alice Coles, Architecture for Humanitarian
2012 was a very contrasting year of experiences, it was the year before I started my foundation year. As a summer internship, I worked at a firm which specialises in luxury housing and occasional commercial work. Often projects were designing mansions, building dream houses, castles, from 5000 to 25000 sqft. I would be lying to say that I did not enjoy it, I absolutely did. I dare to say, every architect would have thought or even have designed their own dream house at one point. Not only learning a lot within professional practice, but it almost felt like the perfect, idealistic world. It was almost like SimCity in real life.
The second half of 2012, I spent doing charity work and travelling around Uganda. During the time we spent there, we built wells, taught english and saw the communities for what they were. As surreal as it was, I was talking to a 7 year old child. And he asked me, what did I want to be when I grew up. I told him, I want to be an architect, to simply it for him, I said, to build homes. He pondered for a while, and then told me. I want to be a doctor. I asked him why, and he said, he wants to help his friends and told me names of people he knew. It was such a pure, innocent, intent. It was the first time, I questioned what kind of designer, architect do I want to be. The trip to Uganda brought the idealistic high from the internship to ground zero.
“I decided I had had enough. I closed the office, bought a motorcycle and went into the desert for fives years to work with the people on their ideas and dreams.” -Nadar Khalili, Architecture for Humanitarian
Intrigued and amazed with all the things going on at the AA, it’s been a while since I thought back to 2012. For sure, through the last three years at the school there are many things and specific kind of architecture I’ve developed interest in. But bringing things back to basic, who and what am I designing for? Because we can talk about virtual architecture, aural architecture, designing through experiences, few of the many topics I have explored the last few years, all we want, but to ground zero, who am I designing for? There is the human being, ‘people’ away from all business, commercial, political means. And there is the business, people as clients, when things gets so much more complicated, than the pure intent of a home, a shelter, space as a necessity. It is inspiring to see all the projects created by AFH, but even more are experimental projects from Dip 7 from a few years back. An unit at the AA which did similar kind of work.
It is so easy to immersive ourselves into the sparkly world of architecture, new technology, smart materials, and such. Sometimes, it makes us forget about the most basic need for architecture, going back to primitive huts, how can we build the new ‘basic’. When the discussion of what skills do we have to bring to the office during the lecture, it made me think about what I can offer. Studying at the AA has given us more than the ability to design, but to converse, to think analyse theories and most of all to be experimental. For professional practice year out, I believe is a good opportunity to see what’s out there, to see how I want to practice as an architect, to look at how I can use the skill set, the experimental experience, to achieve both, to find the line between working for the human being, and the client. I think it’s important to practice with more than just what is ‘radical’ or innovative, but remembering to bring it back down to, what do you design for? Practicing with an intention, with more than just trying to be the most spectacular architect out there, or to just build ‘pretty things’.