On 02APR22 Der Spiegel posted an interview with Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au.
In that article he says:
“If we have to take the moral standards and political correctness into account, then we should instead be talking about where you can then even build at all. Then I can’t build in Russia, and I can’t build in China or Saudi Arabia. I’m not allowed to build for the Church, either, because it is morally depraved. My question for you is this: What am I supposed to do now?”
This seems in sharp contrast to the recent coverage of the 2022 Pritzker Prize winner, Francis Kéré and his focus on community.
“What am I supposed to do now?” asks Prix. Ah, the question of ethics . . . ‘What should I do?’ It seems that, while he is aesthetically imaginative, he’s lacking in an ethical imagination.
First, you don’t have to avoid morality and social justice (or even zoning/building regulations) to accomplish something in architecture or any other field. So, yes, every responsible profession must take moral standards (though I would say ‘principles’) into account. A good set of principles was established in 1948 with the proclamation by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The profession can build on those basic principles.
Second, as a legislated profession, architects have an ethical duty to a principled moral position in their work. Architecture is, of course, an art. But it is not like a painting in a museum or novel in a library, it is in the public domain in a much larger and unavoidable way. Therefore, there is a significant component of architecture that must address the public interest and the common good. I don’t think the common good can so easily be dismissed in order to accomplish something in architecture. It is not a conditional (‘If we have to’, says Prix). Ethics and moral principles are core to every legislated profession.
In answer to his question, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’, then, Wolf Prix might try giving some thought, considering Francis Kéré’s example, to community architecture. It is possible for architecture to support human rights. Even though the oligarchs and autocrats of the world are loaded with cash, you don’t have to chase it so earnestly.
As the Police once put it:
“Walk the streets for money
You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right”