Architecture as service
Regional architecture regains its sense of responsibility towards society
In her article, ‘Architecture as Resistance’, Palestinian architect Nadia Habash argues for the use of architecture as a service to community, rather than to the demands of a globalised, capitalist system.
“I believe that architecture serves as a catalyst for social processes,” she wrote, “at least in the limited context of local communities…We should be practicing an architecture of social engagement, exploring, agitating, inspiring, motivating, and initiating social processes. We should be encouraging a participatory approach, designing with users rather that for them.” The emphasis being hers.
According to Habash (pg. 20), such projects are not meant to improve the overall living conditions of society, but rather “serve to change spatially defined situations through tangible architectural means and plans, irrespective of political conditions, and resist the pervasive cultural forces of thoughtless consumption and over-branding of human life”.
Habash writes from the stance of a politically and socially active architect, responding to her immediate environment and using her work as a tool of resistance against the Israeli occupation. And while I can appreciate that not all architects are responding to the same conditions, the use of architecture as a means to serve community rather than commercial demands is something that we should see more of. And perhaps, we already are.
Many of the projects and individuals that were nominated for Middle East Architect Awards 2018 (pg 30) reflect this greater mission. We saw an incredible increase of sociallyresponsible architecture from across the region, as well as a number of individuals who are contributing to positive change in meaningful ways.
Mosques with plazas, residential projects that restructure dysfunctional cities, and architects who devote their time to research and proposals that proactively address issues of rapid urbanisation flooded our online portal for nominations. The challenge in selecting the shortlist’s nominees was greater than ever before, with this season highlighting the growing sense of responsibility architects are feeling towards their communities – something Habash would agree with.
“I believe that architects have a greater social responsibility than ever before,” she continued in her article. “If the built environment is a reflection of our culture, as I believe it to be, architects and designers have an enormous impact upon the direction and focus of the population at large.”
RIMA ALSAMMARAEEditor of Middle East Architect