BAS and BAF invites you to an open lecture at BAS Friday 08.11.2019 at 17.00: "The Architect and The City " by Alfredo Brillembourg / Urban Think Tank –Founder
The Architect and The City
How does it feel to see the country of your birth burning on television? The incendiary scent of petrol bombs and tear gas. A fifteen year-old boy killed three weeks before Christmas. Today the crisis makes me feel like a legal alien, watching the kids of other migrant workers rioting in the squares of cities too numerous to name. ‘New arrivals’ two generations in and still pacing a dead end street. Today I’m reminded everywhere of the same scenes I once witnessed first-hand in Caracas.Today I’m reminded of this by all the comparisons I read in the papers, the open veins of a slash-and-burn globalized urbanity . So what is the architects responsibility in this reality?
Architecture and urban planning cannot be either top-down or bottom-up. Plans and designs imposed from on high ignore what people really need and want. Part of the problem has simply to do with nomenclature. If a well-meaning entity gives a grant to a municipality to improve the infrastructure, who decides what that infrastructure consists of? Without a deep and lengthy immersion in the culture and lives of the locals, we can’t know what solution is appropriate and genuinely useful. On the other hand, the people most in need typically lack the power and funds to transform their lives and their future. They know what they want, but do not have the means to achieve it, perhaps not even a way to define it. As Thomas B. Farrell wrote: “Every culture requires some avenue for addressing and thereby explicating its identities, accomplishments, and needs.” Architecture, properly conceived and practiced, can and should be that avenue.
We also have a problem of language in trying to define who we are and what we do. First and foremost, we design, in the fullest sense: we conceive, invent, plan, draw, create, compose, intend. To design, as we mean it, is to bring to bear on any project intuition and reason, imagination and logic, words and images. With respect to bringing an idea to fruition, realizing a design, we are the fulcrum, the link, the mediator, facilitator, consensus-builder. Our role is to create connections among all the constituents of a plan and to unite them in a common purpose
That said : Politics is power, and, as Lord Acton noted in the mid-19th century, “[p]power tends to corrupt.” Ironically, Acton was a politician—but perhaps that gave him the best perspective. The greatest ill besetting the global south is corruption, driven by the desire to retain power and increase wealth.
Revolution is not the answer. Transformation is. Revolution pits people and groups against one another, placing the winners in power and the losers in purdah. Transformation requires participation and collaboration across political, social, cultural, and economic barriers.
For decades, architects have bemoaned the loss of primacy in the design of buildings and cities. They are not entirely wrong. The larger problem, we believe, has been the failure of much of the profession and of the schools that train future professionals to see architecture potentially as the engine of social change. We are not against the design of iconic towers when the fees thus earned are used to finance transformative projects. Architects have the skills and the knowledge to improve lives and revitalize cities. We are happy to see that more and more of our colleagues are doing so.
We believe fervently in the city—not as it is, but as it can be, as we hope it will be. Our future city considers people first: Who are they? What is missing in the urban condition that they most need? How can we improve their lives? Our objective is to create the means by which people move about easily, using a variety of modes; to enable serendipitous encounters among people from different social and economic strata and varying cultures; to blend, mix, and entangle to as to ensure the greatest possible diversity; and to elevate the quality of life for those who have been on society’s margins.
Place: Large lecture room, Bergen School of Architecture, Sandviken.
Welcome to all!