Architecture is always a political act. Where buildings go, what they do, and how they work with their environment involve beliefs, choices, and actions of a variety of people in any given community.
Settlement patterns have been a significant source of conflict in human history, as they define who is part of what community and how resources are used. Just a few examples include historic battles over housing settlements in the Middle East, the division of Berlin in 1960s Germany, and the more recent controversy over a proposed Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero in New York City. Often designers can play a role in diffusing or avoiding these conflicts by simply offering logistical ways to better manage resources or facilitate access for everyone involved.
Every day, many architects are active agents in and beyond their own communities, working to change policy or initiating projects before designing them. For example, architects commonly serve on public commissions, volunteer on the boards of non-profits, and even donate or invest their own funds in the development of projects to get them going. This is a good way for them to improve communities, but also build relationships that help their careers.
Architecture culture takes professional ethics beyond the legal requirements of the discipline into the larger societal arena. Take a look here at how students and faculty are thinking about politics and policy in architecture...
Image 1 > This book, published in December 2010 by Princeton Architectural Press, consists of 50 case studies of dilemmas that architects have encountered in practice, with an analysis of the ethics involved in each situation.
Image 2 > This proposal, as a critique of the lack of durability consideration in the UNHCR refugee camp model, proposes strategies for emplacement.
Image 3 > The project confronts the paradoxical complexity of national reconciliation in the Korean peninsula in an attempt to reveal potential problems facing normalization of the territory.
Image 4 > With 137 accredited schools of architecture and an even larger number of planning and design schools, not only are we capable of responding to disasters, but it is our mandate to do so.