It is pertinent to address the disparate and malleable ideology that our contemporary society is facing. Neoliberalism is widely employed today, and it allures states and households hidden in the name of “market”. Its governance now became powerful that contributed more to the current condition of inflation and income inequality. Architecture as an agency, a neutral ground. From the readings that will be discussed here, the topics are what is relevant in our profession. The partake of my understanding of these essays will behold my role as an architect.
Architecture against the Post-political
As politics plays a crucial role in the upbringing and development of a country, its mere presence became necessary to take specific needs of citizens and control society. It was discussed in Architecture against the post-political by Nadir Lahiji, where he mentioned that “Post-political bio-politics” is our present mode of politics. The “Post political” connotation is a government that seeks to put aside old political conflicts and rely solely on professional administration and management. On the other hand, the “Bio-politics” primary aim is to govern protection (under the element of fear) and the safety of human lives.
For government and legislation to be followed, citizens must be aggressively mobilized in the form of fear by public compliance. Fear perhaps is likely to be associated with a skeptical temper rather than optimism and ideal expectations, thus, avoiding what would deem necessary for some. In the Architecture discipline, pragmatism and utilitarian ideals controlled the project. It became the policing (for some) designers and I believed that we need to improve and reconfigure the policies that take place in controlling architecture.
Technology threatens old principles, focusing on modern approaches and reconciling the age of innovation with its greater liberty and versatility. The Architecture policies being the “Post- political Bio-politics” in our industry, must take a hard look at the global structure that shapes our lives today. Humanity is not short of great ideas, nor is it lacking powerful apparatuses. What is lacking is architecture to scale these up for the greater good.
The information that has been presented today, for most, is blurry between truth and ruse due to the ability that people can generate ingenuine information in this digital age. However, not many people are aware that the same trend is happening in the field of architecture discipline. As mentioned from the reading, Manfredo Tafuri predicted in architecture biennale in Venice has claimed to display the ‘architecture beyond building’ that it is evident to the participants and most of them are reduced to be just a pure form – which we call “star “architecture. A claim that risen due to some architects looking to be more prominent in the market economy rather than creating a credible figure in architecture.
Architecture has an indispensable correlation with the information presented, either decision made before construction or its effect on inhabitants after completion. This critical notion of producing architecture hand in hand with its social, political, feminist, participatory, and cooperative aspects has arisen strong professional debates. The Alternate Currents symposium created a vast opportunity to understand different critical standpoints of the speakers about the normative mode of practice and values in our future architectural practice.
One note that I came to be mindful, of is how I will position my practice (in the future) within a wider role in our today’s society. I perceived to take it as my first standpoint where I want to see myself working, am I clinging towards the social aspect of our community? Or the political side of it? Being feminist and creating a better-built environment focuses on the well-being of women. For now, it is a question that I need to contemplate and examine my aspirations.
Where are the Women Architects?
As part of the question transpired from my initial proposition for my professional practice, I am looking at focusing on understanding the role of Women in Architecture. It is critical to understand how it was started, and its history from the university education that was preserved for male folks and women in the university, it was until 19th-century campuses opened their doors to female students. The Title IX anti-discrimination law in the U.S has yielded improvement for women to pursue an education in architecture, yet the discrimination against women in practice still hasn’t changed. As mentioned in “Where are the Women Architects?” By Despina Stratigakos, Women Architects have fewer job opportunities, pay equity, mentoring and promotions are not open to the table. We find that the male architect profession commands more money than female architects. This disparity in wages is so vast, that it has led to a gender inequality revolution and workplace political awakening.
Women in male-dominated fields are less likely to flourish. They are rarely exposed to historical roles. One example is Lilly Reich, she was a German designer who collaboratively work with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. She was less known for her achievement as a woman pioneering in Architecture and design, hence Mies Van der Rohe was a male designer who obtained more achievement and was celebrated in the Architecture scene. This situation of women emphasizes the concept of gender inequality. Another example could be found during the pandemic when women are giving up their careers in lieu of their responsibility as a mother to focus on their child’s welfare. This threatening situation has widened again the gap of gender work equality amongst different fields.
It is a must for every one of us, not just women to partake in this workplace political awakening. We can do better than what is happening now by being optimistic and actively promoting gender parity, empowering female leadership, and making it all visible.
Who builds your Architecture? A Critical Field Guide
Stretching from the marginalized women architects, there is also vast hidden existence and ambiguity in the supply chain of industrial labor in the field of construction, related to the huge increase of subcontracting works that takes place. Migrant workers find better-paying employment and searching for more opportunities outside their own country is the main factor. Consequently, many private recruitment agencies are taking advantage of these labor trends. It is fairly and thoroughly investigated in a published reading from Who Builds Your Architecture? A Critical Field Guide. They have critiqued and questioned the critical issues from workers’ rights and the construction process that takes place globally from the purview and role of an Architect.
In a particular case, worker’s dormitories for migrant laborers in Singapore are poorly maintained and such provisions for the healthy living condition are substandard. The complaints of workers are not uncommon. It is worth mentioning that the land is scarce in Singapore and with millions of migrants working there, accommodation prices are steep for their employers to afford, hence, they will settle into a substandard dormitories. The government however stepped up to enforce stringent rules and regulations regarding this issue. They have passed a Foreign Employee Dormitories Act 2015 that requires dormitories hosting foreign workers to obtain a legal permit that caters to social, recreational, and commercial amenities.
The key point for me is Architects have an ethical responsibility that can make a great impact on fair worker treatment. Several ways were mentioned in the reading, and the utmost significance for me is using your architectural drawings and documents as a genuine vehicle to promote and lead an innovative design approach for decent worker’s housing. The readings have been discreetly assimilating the neoliberalism practice that we are having today.
The Architecture of Neoliberalism
From the idea of Architecture, it can be understood by non-specialist audiences to be limited to its market-based communication approach. It was mentioned in the reading that the factual process narrative is not effective to imply your intent for the project. Hence, it becomes relevant now to create a relationship between protocols and output. Management in Architecture discipline needs to focus on its effective framework, its social process, and its implications to work in a spontaneous order.
From the writer’s perception, Douglas Spencer argued that neoliberalism's primary character is to enhance its free market in the form of engaging governmentality in the production and shaping of economies. The structure of its discipline allows us to shape the common-sense understanding of our everyday life. Hence, turning the world to be more competitive, business-minded, and hardworking. The main critiques have been into the corporate managerialism and complex societal order that was reflected in the controversial work of Zaha Hadid. Commercially oriented to urban development, Architecture is beginning to be a real estate and consumerist enclave.
Can Architecture be an Emancipatory Project?
Following through how the society being business minded oriented and consequently how technology is the main driver, its emancipation in architecture has already started. A new generation of architects is now bolder to take more risks. Social media being the tool of technology, new architects have now multiple options for their career; Joining large firms is still the norm, putting up a start-up company, or doing freelance. Those that joined large firms are now more aware of those that still use old practices and use social media as their tool to condone abusive, illegal, and undemocratic work which in turn force the organization to restructure and cater to more 'collaborative' projects. Those who put up small firms or get into freelancing utilize social media platforms to advertise their services to scope out for clients that conventional advertising once cannot reach.
This opens a whole new realm for architecture as an industry. As small start-up firms can act like large corporations and handle big projects. While large firms re-organize themselves to cater to new clients on competitive selections. This creates healthy competition in the industry and opportunities for young architects to showcase their talent. But this is not all pros. Technology can easily be the source of piracy or forgery, false information that could lead to malpractice. The students still need to be guided and equipped with proper knowledge, and guidance thus allowing them to be hungry and demanding. This would create a ripple of changes in the field.
Spatial Intelligence – New Futures for Architecture
The idea about spatial intelligence as a mere eidetic recall that aggravated through innovations, had evoked me to address, am I overly dependent on the Architecture of Pragmatism where we are told which are ideal, practical, and efficient? In the readings, Schaik referenced that during earlier times humans are significantly more mindful of their surroundings and they only rely on their reading ability to our environments to survive. As we progress, we started to be unselfconscious of the surroundings thus, our spatial intelligence is debilitated by the proliferation of our modernist world. Spatial mindfulness is evolving and that 'sensing' as a tool for Architects will help rethink our spaces, but with our new technologies how we can opt to do the sensing if we are excessively drawn in with the flat screens?
In the new ways of exploring this potential new spatial intelligence, the technology and software made it possible for us, architects, and stakeholders to create design interactivity in real-time. Furthermore, it is also enormously effective for students to embrace and explore the spatial and mental space approach to create good architectural practice. Besides, he exemplified in the reading that to design, one must awaken his spatial intelligence – as an ethical concern.
Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity
Technology advancement and industrialization have evolved simultaneously and caused rapid growth in our lifestyle. The urbanization cycle has created a big dent in our environment. Therefore, our natural resources, biomass, and fossil energy were quickly exhausted and became a major cause of the climate crisis. Today we live in a world that is highly polluted and unfit for living. Where it has been in conjunction with the availability of our carbon energy. The Architecture typologies of the cities have been reorganized based on their convenience to the workforce. The essay about Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity by Elisa Iturbe brought the subject of Carbon Form as the building block of a contemporary city.
Growing up in the city, I have known how the dominant energy system attracts the uncontrolled growth of settlement and unorganized connection of transits. As an example, the urban density in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is known as one of the highest rates of motorization in the street capacity to handle the traffic. One of the major factors is the concentration of business districts and shopping malls that create urban density along the major highway called EDSA. The Megacity has experienced an extraordinary increase in carbon footprint brought by the joint process of globalization that anchors for more development.
Architecture should be the agency to formulate various schemes and establish a firm direction to transform and overcome decarbonization of the modern cities. Nevertheless, it is also our responsibility to help the reduction of carbon form and minimize the wastage of natural resources that increases unsustainable economic development. Such contributions will create an impact on our modern age.
Governance and The Climate Crisis
Those contributions that were created are such overwhelming and imminent, that their transformations shaped our environment. It became an integral part of this climate crisis as it was deliberately mentioned that architecture has the agency to advocate and understood its connections. In the readings, Kaminer cited how British architectural education failed to prepare the students with the necessary awareness of the realities and understanding of the impact of global warming. The call for the curriculum change from the group of architectural students addresses it fervently to commit academic institutions to integrate the highest standards for the positive ecological attribution to architecture. This recasting will demand a massive mobilization of the overall curriculum change for the institution, however, having a voice to partake in this notion will create a great impact on our pedagogy. It will also create an example for conducting environmental policy reviews and exploring new options in decarbonizing and ecological contribution. These have set my thinking on how practitioners could help to develop the state regulatory framework in shaping and spreading sustainable systems.
As argued by Newell and Paterson the growth of the economy is in parallel with its ideology and sustainable goals are the only viable solution, thus, political will and progressive legislation should be necessary. The immediate commitment to the goal will then go back to re-establishing tight planning and governance in the urban fabric. It says that decarbonization intervention should start with a small scale and localism wherein architects could find a route to the architectural agency through its space, form, process, and participation. One example would be how the LEED point system could be part of establishing incentives to create a more sustainable building. This could also lead to more experts being depoliticized and naturalized to make fundamental decisions in the overall logical process of Architecture.
The urban fabric evolves over time, and the ever-changing market value of land properties has been the gauge for the social insecurity of most working class. As evident in almost all cities, anyone who lives in inner areas is considered rich, whilst the middle to lower working class is constantly pushed out to the outer boundaries by financial institutions, marking up the property prices and forcing the low-income workers to either acquire a property with extreme mortgages to stay in areas near their work or live on the borders. It created an invisible barrier between the affluent and the unprivileged people.
As cited in the reading, a neoliberal society with architecture as a core skill set must break down the principle of architectural practice and think as a free entrepreneur. We must prioritize and consider projects that explore and invent new models such as derivative architecture that promotes greater agency than the usual client service structure that we are following today. Being able to operate on risk and its capacity of time, space, and money - without being subjective with our professional relationships and limitations to produce improvement and dissuade neoliberalist ways.
So, whilst architecture is being identified as a mediator in all of the readings, the complexity of the issues that we realize in a deeper perspective allows us to claim how the architecture profession should work in an urgent manner, yet this urgency shall be looked at as a positive outlook, a challenge and a chance to perpetuate our architectural legacies.
- Lahiji, Nadir, ed. Architecture Against the Post-Political: Essays in Reclaiming the Critical Project, Routledge, Oxon, 2014
- Schneider, Tatjana & Till, Jeremy ed. Alternate Currents, field, 2008
- Stratigakos, Despina, Where are the Women Architects?, Princeton University Press, 2016
- Spencer, Douglas. The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How contemporary architecture became an instrument of control and compliance, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, 2016.
- Lahiji, Nadir, ed. Can Architecture be an Emancipatory Project?: Dialogues on Architecture and the Left, Zero Books, Alresford, 2016.
- Van Schaik, Leon. Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture, John Wiley & Sons, Richmond, 2008.
- Who Builds Your Architecture? A Critical Field Guide. 2017
- Iturbe, Elisa, Log 47: Overcoming Carbon Form: Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity, Fall 2019
- Kaminer, Tahl, Governance and climate crisis: Architecture, the local and the global. Log Overcoming Carbon Form, 2019
- Jack Self, Real Estates: Life Without Debt, Derivative Architecture, 1987