Reflection on “Collaboration”
Collaborating to bring about social justice
It is no secret that architects need to collaborate to succeed. The profession itself is integrative; requiring designers to work with professionals, such as civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, urban and regional planners, and interior designers. This kind of collaboration is what first comes to mind, and it is vital to a successful project. However, architecture is a powerful mechanism that goes beyond the walls of a building and reaches into lives and communities. If we accept that architecture has this power, then we must accept that buildings and those who design and build them have a social responsibility to promote justice and human dignity. Beyond the inevitable collaboration with those in related professions, architects can take extra steps towards a greater common good by collaborating with communities, ministries and governments.
An exemplar project that embodies this kind of collaboration is the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, East Africa. This project involved the collaboration of the major groups: Mass Design Group; Partners in Health; and the Rwandan Government. By working together, they created “a holistic model of architecture that choreographed the process of construction to employ, educate, and empower the local community.” As the designers, Mass Design Group used local materials and local labor-intensive practices that delivered a site-appropriate, sustainable design, and stimulated the local economy. Doing this significantly reduced the cost of the project and made a lasting impact in the district.
The above example is significant to me because I was raised in one of those communities where health and educational systems are not at their best. And through my study of architecture, I have come to realize the power architects have to effect social justice when they collaborate with community members, organizations and leaders. Helping those who are impoverished and marginalized should involve working with them for them, not just giving them what you think they need.
Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)