Why is the profession of architecture not inclusive?

According to the content analyzer BuzzSum, social media users are mostly concerned with Betsy DeVo’s yacht – which apparently is nothing in comparison to her new summer house. Considering what seem to be the trending topics in architecture one might think there is no issue in the field at all. Everything is fine, so we can focus on trivial news as such. Of course, this lack of a collective value system in society would make sense if one were to understand the reality of the postmodern human. By understanding this, perhaps we would start seeing more clearly why architecture has become the autocratic profession it is. Autocratic meaning: only certain people get to decide what gets built and who gets the awards. It is hard if not impossible to have any influence on these kinds of choices within a company because of power relations within the architectural industry. [br]

So, what is the reality of the postmodern human? An issue in society today is alienation caused by mass commodity culture. Journals, magazines and newsletters tend to focus on popular culture because they get a lot of hits and clicks. We have lost touch with the ‘authentic’ in our lives. We are not being chased by beasts in the forests anymore, we do not need to create tools with our bare hands to protect ourselves. The highlight of the consumers’ day is to turn on the television and watch the next soul-crushing tv show that is on after a long day of work that does not necessarily fulfil us. It is no longer our physicality we need to protect as much as it is our minds. [br]

Out of all the arts, architecture is the one that has been most clearly commodified. Land is expensive and investing in it can bring huge profits.  Architecture has become more of a business rather than a socially driven profession. This is because it reflects the social and economic structure of our reality. It has very much become a corporation. This is not to say that all firms go by these rules, but technically if you want to be leading the market you will not necessarily be concerned with the environment or with people. ‘The ruling ideas of any age’, as Marx and Engels have said, ‘have ever been the ideas of the ruling class” – and these ideas include architectural ones.’ [br]

Having said that, it makes sense that when one of us recent architecture undergrads head off to intern at one of these firms we will be assigned to draw out drafts of bathrooms. Corporations are not interested in idealists offering solutions for saving the world. That goes against their profit maximising mindset. By giving us mundane mechanical work, they can rest assured we will not be in their way. The students’ voice in big firms is just one of the many problems. What about the people we are building for? Do we really include them as much as we can in the process? What about the environment? Are we taking advantage of technology’s potential so that we can create ecosystems rather than separate ourselves from nature? These are all important questions for which we may not have the right answers yet, but it is essential we start discussing them collectively. In the coming months these are topics that will be in the headlines. [br]