Beautiful drawings alone are not enough: why we should not get stuck in our own discipline.
Only someone who spent the last two decades in outer space can have missed the paradigm shifts going on around living, working, mobility and more. In his book ‘The World is Round’, Jo Caudron describes as winds that are raging at the moment and which, when they come together, can turn into the perfect storm with a new society being the end-result. If someone went into hibernation today and wake up in 20 years, it would be in a new world with completely different habits. That is perhaps not so surprising if you think about how we grew up and compare it to our own children today. We, as architects, are part of this society and have unique skills to contribute to the necessary response. Let us use them!
You could say that an architect who purely works, and therefore designs, within their own discipline can only do this within the framework created by the greater whole, our society. It should be obvious that we have grown from 0 to 1000 in no time at all to enjoy higher levels of comfort and quality in many areas. However, it is also clear that we must turn this acceleration around because the disadvantages associated with it have also multiplied. I do not think this needs explaining futher..
The great (further) upheaval we need is to find the right balance between the economic and social forces. Society must seek a new attitude in relation to the totality.
What role do we, as architects, play in all this?
Architects start from an inquisitive and designing attitude. Sometimes perhaps taking a somewhat narrow view if merely looking at building(s) and sometimes the view is a little wider, if we ‘hover’ and rise above the bigger picture. I personally feel most comfortable in that helicopter. As beautiful as the work of our profession as architects and urban planners is, it is my firm conviction that in order to meet the complex challenge of the future society we must have understand the larger complex. The whole of inseparable systems that come together under the name of ‘society’.
In other words, in today’s society it is crystal clear that we, as architects, cannot provide solutions by acting as 'loners' and only pursuing solutions through design research. In other words, pretty drawings alone are not enough but that is all too often the case in practice.
We must have the courage to fly the flag, with clear objectives, and constantly strive to achieve our ambition. Architects and urban planners are more aware than anyone else as to how we live, work, care, recreate and move around in all this. We have a very broad training and that is our strength. Apart from our own expertise, the content and construction of the desired programme, we are first and foremost in setting out which knowledge domains need to be connected in order for the whole to fit into the wider context. For example, without sustainable experts and socio-economic pioneers we will not achieve our intention.
That is why I am calling on governments, politicians, investors, but also spatial planners, climate experts and participation experts to work with us. I ask fellow architects to do the same. Not we, nor you, but together we must think and act. For me, it is the ecosystems that will prevail over individual expertise. Only this working together, with each discipline sitting around the round table, can lead to a comprehensive solution that benefits society and the planet. This all-encompassing system contains all the knowledge necessary literally to create the ‘theatre’ in which society can continue to play out in a responsible manner.
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