Author: JAA

Architectural historian, college professor, serious home cook, avid traveller, amateur photographer and constant critic.

Eunice Slanwa, Bronze Medal Nominee (2019)

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)

Advertisements

Deborah Lee, Bronze Medal Nominee (2019)

Reflection on “Collaboration”

Mere architecture cannot be called “architecture” on its own. Architecture without people has lost its purpose, without design lost its power, without system lost its strength, without a context lost its place, and without history lost its roots. As humans cannot survive without interactions, architecture cannot thrive without collaboration

People make architecture for people, which means architecture cannot exist without Humans. The complexity of mankind is what makes architecture interesting. An infant, a child, a teenager, an adult, a senior… all of these people different in age, culture, and occupations build up the society that we live in, and the space they occupy becomes a space that builds community and captures memories. Because architecture holds these very important spaces, collaborating with the public, the community, and the users to gain empathy is crucial

Along with engaging with the public and the users, collaborating with the site itself would bring great value to the architecture and the site altogether. Understanding the soils, the deep history, the climate, and the culture of the natural or built environment and responding to it in the design allows the architecture to find the meaning in its place, finding its true rootedness in it.

Moreover, as we live and design for this complex world, it is impossible to understand every aspect of the world, yet the world demands all its needs. The architectural design process is like a puzzle set that we collectively piece together to find the best picture. To best fulfill the needs and the wants, architectural designers collaborate with each other as a team and with other experts in different areas of construction and system.

The studies in architecture have taught me that we cannot grow alone. Growing alone would mean growing in a box without really knowing what the world is like or what architecture really is. Architecture is a constant study of the people, the place, the world, technology, etc., as it responds to all. The more insights we gain from the context and each other, more successful we can be in delivering the needs of space in the most profound and poetic manner.

 

Exhibits of Coursework (click to expand)