Articles and Reviews
the website promoting an ethical approach
The article below was written at the beginning of the millennium, and highlights some of the ethical issues facing architects then. They are still relevant today and so the article has not been updated. The box contains the text of a letter published in the RIBA Journal in July 2009 as an example of the continuing debate.
also asks explicitly
Why a Christian Ethic?
Sunand Prasad's commentary on the RIBA
ethics debateraises various issues that were debated at the Barbican in
April (Ethics in Architecture - The Corbusian Legacy), when none of
the concerns surrounding the practice of architecture were ducked by the
The RIBA codes of conduct do explicitly require members to act competently and responsibly in the public interest, with honesty and integrity, and with respect for the rights and interests of others.
Architects in Israel are building illegal settlements on expropriated and stolen land, working in complicity with its government using its military force and discriminatory laws. They are seriously breaching human rights and international law
The RIBA and International Union of Architects took a stand against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. That helped to bring about change. There is no reason now not to act against those countries that behave in a similar way
Professional ethics are at stake, and we should not shy away from applying them in the interests of peace and justice.
Ethical architecture is not just about going green, though Marco Goldschmied, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, made sustainability a key issue for the year 2000, and it became a recurring theme, as reported in The Architects' Journal.
Sustainability concerns the good stewardship, i.e. management, of all our resources; not only materials and energy, but the existing built environment, and human resources - how architects treat their own employees, and compete for work. Good news for students was the introduction of a minimum wage.
The controversy over the demolition of the Brynmawr Rubber Factory highlighted a number of ethical issues; the preservation of grade II* listed buildings; local authority consultation; social justice - ironically the latter being the reason behind its construction in the first place.
The process and product of architecture are equally important.
Ethically the process of architecture should be to design with people, not for them, enabling the users to achieve their desired ends and meet their aspirations. The product should be places of firmness, commodity and delight, or in the latest translation, soundness, utility and attractiveness,* for the enjoyment of users, visitors and passers-by alike.
To return to resources people's access to them is unequal, not only between inner cities and outer suburbs, but between the affluent developed world and developing countries. This situation also needs to be addressed, and while it is partly a political problem, architects have a responsibility as citizens and as architects.
The news, reviews and articles therefore comment on and develop the theme of an ethical approach to architecture. The relevance of the Christian world view to this theme was openly expressed in Britain's two main architectural publications over the Millennium.
In the AJ in December 1999 Paul Hyett took the parable of the talents to encourage all architects to ask whether we were using our expertise in the best interests of our clients and the community. And in BD in December 2000 Jeanette Winterson wrote of the traditional crib which reminds us of "the energetic and invisible universe of imagination and spirit.....revealed through religion and art. And architecture."
The section on The Bible and Building therefore explores in greater depth the Judeo-Christian world view and principles derived from it which support this ethical approach - though of course other world views also support it.
ArXitecture also recognises and promotes human equality, celebrating enjoyable architecture, and giving thanks for its clients, designers, and builders, regardless of ......
But finally Back to Basics asks why do we build? and who are we? - the answers to which profoundly affect our values and what we do in practice.
*Vitruvius: Ten Books on Architecture translated by D Rowland CUP 1999
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