what we’re talking about here is “why architecture and politics don’t mix” in case some of you don’t remember your analogies. I know already many of you may be thinking “oh crap here we go on some crazy political rant (anyone who knows me is mostly right – the rest of you should be surprised).
So let me start, first and foremost, by defining myself in political terms *slaps sticker to top of forehead*: I am a registered (but not gun toting) Republican, but more specifically a Conservative. I believe in the limited and limiting power of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as outlined by our founding fathers as ordained by God (who knew God had his own website?….sweet).
Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall in, you know you’re right; no one is going to tell you any different, least of all me. Your policies are the only smart ones and we should all just fall in line, pinko!
Now, the advocacy arm of the AIA will tell you that Architects should immerse themselves in political debate because political policies greatly affect our profession. While this is true to a large degree (political policies affect all of us, naturally, especially in today’s political climate), but architecture as a profession does not lend itself well to the political process and here’s why: Architects and Architecture work for the greater good of all mankind, not just a select few who happen to be lucky (read “rich”) enough to have a few thousand lobbyists in their pocket.
The profession of Architecture is, or was at one time, a more altruistic calling to use building as a way to better the experience of life. We all remember the late night drunken philosophical discussions about the utopian architectural ideal from third year…blah blah blah.
Obviously there are Architects out there who practice simply for their own greedy, megalomaniacal interests or for world domination or whatever. But I know, lurking deep down inside the pit of their stomach, is that same doe eyed architectural idealist we all began as before the “practice” of architecture beat it out of us.
All of this is not to say that Architects should NOT be part of the political process, just to outline why architects/architecture and politicians/politics are at odds with each other at a basic level. Case in point – currently there is a lot of talk about rail funding and the latest cast of republican leadership dragging there feet on how these monies should be spent. And in this I disagree with a lot of the talk that is going on out there, putting me at odds with my own political party because of my professional allegiance to the profession, and practice, of architecture. The politics of social services aside, mass transit is something that can, and does, make better cities as well as act as a catalyst for economic development around rail stations/hubs. This is the “if you build it they will come” mantra made flesh.
The moral of this little tale that I am trying to spin is that Architects and designers must put political allegiances aside in favor of advocating for those policies that are in line with a true greater good of our cities and for the citizens of this country: an increase in mass transit infrastructure, regulations to reduce sprawl and increase vertical density, and a more streamlined process from education to licensure just to name a few.
Now that I’ve rambled on for a good bit, how do you feel about mixing politics and architecture? What are the issues that you stand on, how do they affect the profession and what can architects do to bring about positive change, irrespective of party affiliation, in our cities?