Design with a Cause

It has been a chore of habitually updating myself to what's going around. This time I have come across the website and very impressive Curriculum Vitae of a rather humanitarian architect(of whose name I wouldn't be mentioning for now). Her file says that she's (yup a woman) been traveling around for a while now, winning numerous international prestigious awards the likes of Aga Khan, Archiprix and Emerging Architect Award amongst others.. at a young age of 32 ?! Her obviously killer resume made me ponder: why was she not given the global exposure? and why wasn't she known the same way some are? I go on reading her stuff... She mentioned that her purpose is to 'use architecture as a medium to enhance cultural and individual confidence and support local economies...' , this instantly had put me back in the drawing board to reflect on my current goals and views about architecture. Living and working from Singapore to the U.S had my ideals pointed on pursuing the what I thought is the culmination of design: brilliant, complex and hip.  Keeping myself exposed to great colleagues, mentors and designers ... I knew they have shown me the way.. or not... or have they? Throughout these years, I witnessed starchitects presenting the most original, layman- incomprehensible and cerebral proposals the world has seen yet... I have agreed with their ideas and applauded all these times but frequently found them short of something that I can't really point out ... until now: a profound humanitarian cause.But its always a choice of being a poor but passionate designer vs. a highroller prima donna architect with high profile projects. Anyone up for low-profile commissions? yeah right, I thought so too... Humility isn't really a recipe for success , especially now at present most of us scour for projects for a penny or less.


I have divided Architects into 2 groups: The first one is a group who's advocacy is focused on fashion, concept and mental orgasm, Group X. A race is currently set by these group of elite architects, a race where who gets to design, build and execute the most sophisticated, avant garde and philosophically perfect structure that would demonstrate it's superiority. Indeed these architects have provided solutions with the greatest accuracy,the most complex enhancement to the current circumstance, booster of ego... maybe just a bit more to win the coveted Pritzker Prize. These works are brilliant , but merely pieces of mental exhibition if you ask me. They end up winning statusquo awards...

In the meantime, on the undesirable side of the globe, Group Y have spent their extra time weaving through uncomfortable situations and making it through by executing a rather well designed school using their own hands along with some volunteers, that's right, hand-built, in Bangladesh. Their arsenal: unpaid eager village people and a beacon of hope. They end up winning humanitarian awards. at the end of the day,Guess who makes it to the cover of the Architectural Digest though....

The difference? nothing much. Both solutions are brilliant. Only that the second group had chosen to use their creativity to poorer clients and users; in which by the way, are the  same people left behind whenever the likes of an iconic, towering architectural marvel has been built to make its stand and represent excessive corporate expeditures. Nothing wrong with enhancing a rather decent environment, it is just that oftentimes whenever a development has been made for a certain group, another has been deprived of. Plus the media prefer the more beautiful and the more elegant.

As a conclusion, I say this: Great Architecture should be in its purest state, an all-encompassing gift that doesn't judge and does not tag compensation as a driving force,only the willingness of those who are capable.... But of course ,this is just like how Karl Marx described Communism on its untainted form....... too good to happen. I am left with nothing but admiration to this high-attaining but low profile designer who sets to find brilliant solutions on less abundant lands.

.. like what they say '' design like you give a damn'' :