Ar­chi­tec­ture as ser­vice

Re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture re­gains its sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards so­ci­ety

Middle East Architect - - COMMENT -

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

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