In architecture, ethics are malleable. In theory, the terms are rigid, yet the reality is elastic. Although much of the built environment is ostensibly designed for an individual client’s needs, architecture’s effects reverberate politically, environmentally and culturally, often in unexpected ways and far beyond the limits of any parcel or project. This issue of Perspecta considers the ethical questions and moral tensions that arise during the ideation, development, completion and aftermath of the design process.
Architecture operates on a temporal scale largely disconnected from social shifts. While architectural projects are often funded by those who are most powerful, the practice still has implicit obligations to those most vulnerable. By making abstract concepts concrete, architecture’s manifest nature can work to either reinforce or disrupt political, environmental and social structures.
This issue delves into multi-faceted conversations around the idea of responsibility in architecture, grounded in the historic trajectory of the topic while recognizing more speculative positions. Contributors from a diverse span of geographies and practices offer insights, provocations and questions about the dilemmas that architects encounter at every stage of designing the built environment: Whose architectural ideas get to become reality? What ethical role does form play in design? What moral burdens must architects shoulder in the act of building? Lastly, what is the future cost of today’s actions?
Through arguments, essays and projects that examine the issue at a range of scales—from the intimacy of a single material to the reach of global typology—Perpsecta 53 explores the complex dynamics of architectural onus and the ways in which designers navigate conflicting agendas to pose new possibilities.
Notes on the Activist Tradition in Architecture
Lola Sheppard and Mason White