Topic for Debate
Architects and society
Hello everyone,

I always wonder, what are the responsibilites of an architect towards society?

Every profession has its own way of contributing to society. Law, doctors, etc. Architecture as a profession also has different aspects to it.

Some deal with it just as a construction business, some add life to it, some do it for some other causes and likewise.

Do we really have some responsibilities towards the society we are living in? If so, what are they?

Right from the thought process of a design to the innaguration of a building or any construction; socially, morally, politically, ethically... are we someone in the society?
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Architects and society

Yes, you are someone in the society. And you have a great responsibility. A responsibility that many completely ignore. I can think of some:

To contribute to the comfort of the people who inhabit your buildings - if the building is astounding, but the people inside are unhappy because the building is oppressive, something went awry.

To contribute to the well-being of the people who live in the vicinity of the building - if the new building does not offer a pleasant environment to those who walk or drive by, society was not well served by the building and the architect.

To contribute to the artistic and aesthetic legacy of the society you live in - we are all children of our ancestry. We all want to preserve our ancestry. Its values, its beauty. That is another responsibility.

To contribute to the health and to the improvement of the health of our environment - by not being heavy on the land, by not being heavy on the demands for non-renewable resources, and not heavy on resources that exact a high cost on the society where you live.

You also have the responsibility to balance all the real-life demands made upon you in the most intelligent way so as to make a contribution in any or all of the above.

Will that start some thought process? Hope so.
Nando Cruz
Architects and society
By creation of actual physical space, architects create archetypes of interior, intellectual space.

This is the habitation of cultures which inculcate intergenerational moral values. How can architects not share responsibility?
Anthony Stewart
Architects and society

Thanks for your responses.

My view of questioning about architects sharing responsibility is not only regarding contribution to the buildings.

I want to know about it in every aspect of life and society.

Socially, politically, morally, legally, ethically... that's what I meant.

I really look forward to the examples of architects, if there are.
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Architects and society
I accept that there is a cultural part to architecture, but architecture is much more than that.

In the real profession people are trying to break building laws issued by authorities as far as possible... is that why what an architect trained for years? Is it what he is supposed to do...?

If a client is fascinated by something which might actually doesn't suit the situation, isn't it his responsibility to make him understand the merits and demerits of it? To just do it, thinking 'if not me someone else might do it...?'

When a design process starts, there are a number of constraints to it. The cultural aspect is one of them. There are legal and financial aspects which involve a different classes of people from different professions.

Right from a management professional to a site labourer and different consultants. So as architects, can't we do something to society and people directly and indirectly through architecture?

Sorry if I'm not still clear in what I'm saying. I'm speaking about things starting from social service, to many other deeds. I want to know what different architects think of this issue and if there are any people doing something about these things.
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Architects and society
Hello all,

I am new to this forum, and I hope to form a lasting bond with the patrons of this forum.

I find the level of thought-provoking topics and views infinitely refreshing. Many of the topics and questions posed here are questions I've been asking myself and others ever since I decided to pursue architecture as my chosen profession.

Ethically, I believe that an architect's design, nay, his life's work should be to provide living, working, and recreational spaces that exhibit a better quality of life for society.

Other professions, such as lawyers and doctors, also have an obligation to the society they serve. Doctors have the resource of extensive scientific research. With this research they test and develop technologies and techniques enabling them to do the good work of healing people. Thus a family crys tears of joy after hearing the good news that their father has successfully recovered from triple bypass heart surgery.

Lawyers interpret with the law set by their respective societies. Their research is done by studying rulings of the past and applying the attitudes and morals of their day to make their case. Thus unjust segregation laws are abolished allowing blacks and whites in the U.S. the freedom to share both public and private space.

The effect of these professions on society are lasting and decisive. They leave an impression on the societies which they serve. The results are evident, the client/patients dreams/wishes have been fufilled. What matters the cost when the client has exactly what they set out to get?

If the world of architecture is to improve the public perception in the society which it serves, the architect must not look soley within himself for design solutions and wonders, but rather listen to the client and society, whose dreams can be fulfilled through the application of the architect's expertise.
Marvin Marcellus
Architects and society
Architecture is a cultural tool, not a social tool. Therefore architects have a responsibility for creating and recreating culture.
Frank John Snelling
Architects and society
I request more people to express their views please...

I see no point in just ruling out the social aspect of the profession.
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Architects and society

I agree with you on your insistence. I also contributed to your question and did not see any debate or reeinforcement of the points made.

To all,

Why is it that this great discussion forum does not seem to have much discussion?

For people not to air their ideas, are people concerned about something? If so, what?
Nando Cruz
Architects and society
I do hope that architecture students are asking these questions in all honesty and not just as a task to be accomplished for some odd-ball course project.

Architects, like many other professionals, enjoy engaging in the lofty goal of making a difference in society. And I think that is all well and good. Commendable too. But I think that the problem is in the level at which many seem to be flying, or attempting to fly. Big names, particularly. Right up there, at the 50,000 ft level, where oxygen is rarified, and the brain is not oxygenated enough. Bad decisions are made when one's brain is oxygen starved. Look at the effect of ties on high-powered men? The tie cuts the blood flow to the brain... rest my case.

I once was looking at the work of a big name architect and came upon his sketches for an African village. I can tell you that the idea was, shall we say, cute. Disneyland should have bought it. But how on earth did the man expect an African village to build that thing is beyond me. It was quickly apparent that the materials, not readily available in the local market, would need to be machined and secured in ways that would defy an experienced craftsman (and I am using the "man" here and elsewhere because it exists in the terms used, no other reason).

What I really mean by "social responsibility" is the "direct and explicit addressing of social needs." Not at the lofty level of "communities" and a variety of "isms," but at the ground level. Where the rain makes puddles.

For example, let me ask: what are the basic characteristics of an African low-cost dwelling. You may have the answer, but I will venture the following: ventilated, closed to mosquitoes (contradictory? well, so is reality most of the time), made with local materials, with basic sanitation, basic waste disposal, and buildable by the unskilled layperson. That is it. There is nothing else to it.

Why? Because the basic problems are a hot climate that causes dehydration, lack of sanitary conditions that cause diarrhea, lack of protection to mosquitoes that cause malaria, and lack of funds. Period.

To me, if there is a social impact to be made it will be in health. So, what designs have you seen that address health and sanitation? Zero! Zip, nada! I bet. And if I am wrong, please correct me.

How is that for a social responsibility that has gone by unaddressed?
Nando Cruz
Architects and society
'Nando, You make the point about social responsibility of architects. :)

What I should have said was that architecture is primarily a cultural tool and secondly a social tool.

When building design is focused upon "the social" it implies the use of social engineering for the masses.
But people are not masses, people are not faceless things to be manipulated by "social engineering" psychology.

When I say architecture is a cultural tool, I mean that the focus should be upon the small scale viewpoint of considering design which works WITH the environment, WITH the climate and WITH the culture of the people who have to live in specific places. This means the social element is addressed by facing and working within reality.

Therefore I am wholly in favour of vernacular design and architecture, because it actively addresses the basic needs and wants of the people and not some "disneyland viewpoint".
Frank John Snelling


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