Architecture as a political solution


Hi, I'm just starting my university architecture dissertation and would like to ask one simple question to gauge some feedback:

Do you think as designers’ architecture can be used as an argument for change and create an ideology powerful enough to affect politics and help towards solving governing issues, especially in Communist countries?

Nov 3, 11 7:05 am

Well, I know this isn't what you meant, but for what it's worth China (and I've heard Orange Co. CA) use urban planning and design standards that limit opportunities for political protests (public squares are discouraged or are punctured with large planters, the carriageway of streets is made unaccessible by street furniture/foliate that physcially separates it form the too-narrow sidewalk, etc, etc.

So yea, there are people who regard architecture as a political solution :-P

Nov 3, 11 7:59 pm

No. Architecture always have and always will be a product of the cultural, social, and political canvas. Sure buildings can evoke a sense of emotion or some extreme experience, high or low, however they are simply reflections of ideas, whether new or old, good or bad. The "green" movement is often credited for such a claim but I think even they know what they're actually doing. If you chose this topic it would be much more fruitful to enjoy thinking of a more primitive society, where architecture is reverted back to Laugier's hut, and where desire is constantly closer to truth and the human body. Keep it personal and don't give those gloating fools any ammunition.

Nov 3, 11 8:57 pm

Although I mostly agree with Spacefraud, you should see if you can track down Laura Crescimano at Berkeley.  I'm unaware if she is published, but she presented a pretty fascinating lecture called "Fast Loud and Out of Control" at the After Effects symposium at OSU a few weeks ago that dealt with the role of architecture in civil disobedience... it is the only compelling argument that I've heard that architecture can effect positive political change.

Nov 3, 11 11:16 pm

Do you think as designers’ architecture can be used as an argument for change and create an ideology powerful enough to affect politics and help towards solving governing issues, especially in Communist countries?

I would argue that it can, but how is the problem, and because it is often less intentional is not evidence for its inability to function as an instrument for political change.  You need to clarify a few things....

- what is the timline of political change (immediate, generations, etc...) 

- what is the "chain of events" toward political change (does it first influence the public who then reflect that influence on politics over time?) 

- what kind of change (a local market that creates a social movement rejecting coorporate development in favor of local small business or a plaza that becomes a place of protest, or a black church in a white community in the South during the 1950's)

- intention or appropriation (does it have to be intentionally designed for that purpose, or more like a place that has the right conditions to harbor such things as protest in which the public then appropriates...In other words is it in infrastructure that can support a public movement......Aldo's The Architecture of the City)

- Who is the patron (the mayor like in Columbia, the state, possibly a model where the public pools their wealth, a non-profit?)

- is the architecture used as a  symbol of change or an instrument of change?  (in the case of a symbol, political change can come about through its destruction, presence, or occupation..A bank, Pruit Igoe, The building in V for Vendetta, the case of an instument it can be a plaza, a park, a girls school in Iraq, etc...)

  If you are asking whether architecture can be designed to directly and immediatly challenge the power structure through it's form then I would argue that spacefraud is correct.  But, if you are asking if it can change policy over time and in a less direct manner then I would argue yes.  As far as communist countries, take a look at space with regard to its ability to function as a place for protest.  Many spaces in the city are used to facilitate revolutions, but the initial intention of the space was not for revolution....Designed intention may lack, but the appropriation of certain spaces for gatthering and protest may be something to look into.  Facebook was an infrastructure that supported political revolution, I doubt that it was Mark's intention when inventing it.  I also think you need to think past "Architecture" as  just buildings, and look at landscape and urban design as well.  Great Topic!  Best of Luck!

Nov 4, 11 12:35 pm

Thank you all for your kind advice, with special thanks to j.arleo for your extensive amount of input.

Nov 7, 11 8:00 am

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