While some professions seem to be capitulating to the mores of millennial fragility and safe space culture without a shot being fired – including some of the industries once thought least likely to go soft – it is good to see at least one group pushing back.
Sensing a looming threat from a Guardian Op-Ed which seemed to suggest that every irritating aspect of modern buildings is due to a lack of diversity in the profession, editorial director Paul Finch responded in Architects’ Journal:
If, therefore, it is ‘inappropriate’ for a non-Latino person, let alone a non-Puerto Rican, to take a singing role in West Side Story, how long will it be before we are told that only architects with a particular nationality, or better still ethnicity, should design buildings in certain places? A foretaste of possible debate to come appeared in The Guardian recently, where Christine Murray speculated as to whether cities would be better if they were designed by mothers. Not just women, but women with children.
Finch rightly distinguishes between the need to criticism and improve obviously bad and inconsiderate design, which is still prevalent in many new buildings, with the idea that the only people qualified to do so are those who personally possess the specific physical characteristic which needs to be accommodated:
There are all too may example of this, where architecture is commissioned to satisfy one particular group, possibly or sometimes inevitably at the expense of others. Thus, shopping centre design is skewed towards retailers not shoppers; hospitals are designed for doctors, not patients and visitors; and office design focuses on corporate tenants, not office workers.
This happens where clients are mentally lazy and/or their architects are not up to the job. It is about quality of thought and little else. That is why it is a meaningless question to ask whether cities would be better if mothers designed them: it would depend not on their being mothers, but on being good designers.
A plague on the houses of the cultural appropriation brigade, with their increasingly shrill and unpleasant zealotry. In the world of architecture, borrowing, stealing, inspiration and design miscegenation have been an essential part of its evolution for millennia. Long may this continue.
A hearty amen to that, but one wonders if it is wise for someone of any prominence within the creative industries to push back against progressive dogma so publicly. Brave, certainly, but also risky. Watch this space for the likely groveling apology and hasty retraction to come…