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THE CITIZEN ARCHITECT presented at the Architectural Institute of British Columbia „Speaking Out‟ conference 02 May 02

by Graeme Bristol, MAIBC, MRAIC Centre for Architecture & Human Rights 231/2 South Sathorn Road, Yannawa, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120 THAILAND mobile phone (Bangkok): 089-1617283 glbristol@gmail.com www.architecture-humanrights.org

1.

INTRODUCTION

In January of 1998, I came to Bangkok to teach architecture. I came with some general intentions and with a set of ideas about architecture and its place in society. That set of ideas revolved around how we act in the world. What should we do? In a personal sense, yes, but also professionally. What does it mean to be a professional? In this case, to be governed by an Architect‟s Act. Put most simply, these ideas were:  

Human rights are inalienable Architecture, to be relevant to society, must, at its core, further those rights

Now, I don‟t find these ideas, or principles, particularly controversial. The first principle is supported by many documents including our own constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948 and subsequent international documents. The second principle relates to duties of the profession implied by the Architect‟s Act itself. Of course, it‟s not quite that simple. A host of questions are raised. Again, for simplicity, we might reduce these to:  

What are those rights? How do architects further them?

I‟ve been trying to deal with those questions for the last 15 years and my understanding of them has evolved over that time. These past four years of teaching architecture in Bangkok have contributed to my thinking on that. My purpose here is to present a few projects that my students have worked on and indicate how they have contributed to the development of my thinking on these basic principles. 2.

PROJECTS

All of these projects had something in common at the outset. They all relate to


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aspects of poverty displacement and insecurity meeting basic needs empowerment

This, of course, is deliberate. Having been brought up, architecturally speaking, on the works of John Turner and his Freedom to Build, Hassan Fathy and his Architecture for the Poor, as well as the works of Ivan Illich and Victor Papanek, my attention has always been focussed in that direction. My intentions in taking on a teaching position were first to pass these principles on to another generation and, second, to implement them by using the school and its students as a vehicle. These projects reflect those intentions. 2.1.

THE COMMUNITY WORKSHOP

This is an ongoing studio that I usually do with 4th year students. In my first year at the architecture school, as luck would have it - or synchronicity – the UIA sponsored a student competition leading up to their Congress in Beijing in June of 1999. It provided an opportunity – and a deadline – for our 4th year students to have a global venue in which their work could be judged. The program for the competition was quite simple – „implement the Habitat Agenda in your community‟. The Habitat Agenda was framed at the UN conference in Istanbul in 1996. At this conference, along with a review of how far we have come in the intervening twenty years since the Vancouver conference, national and global commitments were made to improve the living conditions of the world‟s population through the development of implementation strategies and policies on: - land use - housing - access for, and the role of women in the development of communities, - sustainability, and the environmental impact of human habitation, - human rights, and the continuing commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights particularly as it pertains to the right to housing, - mobility (transportation and the right to movement) - social development, - the link between urban and rural areas in terms of land use, sustainability and services, and - urbanisation. There were a number of steps in developing this project. It was clear at the outset that students were in no way familiar with the Habitat Agenda or the related community development issues associated with it. The architecture curriculum does not prepare them for participatory planning, for the 2


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relationship between housing and health or education, infrastructure development and so on. What should have been separate courses on development, planning, and sustainability had to be compressed into this a few short weeks of the studio. The 34 students formed groups of 3 or 4. Each group was to identify two communities that they felt met the parameters of the Habitat Agenda. After gathering some preliminary information on each community each group presented their information. From all 18 of these presentations the students and faculty picked 3 communities that best met the criteria. These were:   

a small community of about 1500 people by a freeway offramp in Bangna (southeastern Bangkok) a small Muslim community of about 500 people in the Onnut landfill site (one of the major landfills in eastern Bangkok a small portion of the Klong Toei slum comprised of about 1800 people on one hectare of land. As one of the oldest and most notorious slums in the country, there was considerable hesitation in taking this on.

The small groups of students were formed into three larger groups to begin the process of design with the community. The first step was data collection, both physical and social. Each team had to designate a group leader and delegate the tasks of data collection. Some students, then, gathered more physical data: Size of the community – area and population Condition of the buildings and infrastructure; materials used. Services available – waste removal, water, electricity, telephone Site – plan, ownership pattern, open space, density Climate Hazards Others worked on gathering information about the people in the community itself: History – where did they come from? When was the land first occupied? Employment pattern Education – including cost, location of schools Health – chronic medical problems? Access to services. Diet. Sources of food, means of cooking, Age breakdown Religion. Along with their observations and the comments of community members about their needs, the students then categorized the identified problems into three broad categories: Socio-economic, physical and environmental. From that they developed a preliminary program from which they could then proceed to address these problems in a schematic design for presentation to the community. 3


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It was important to note that there were some problems that could not be addressed by physical design. For example, a common problem in all of these communities was drug abuse. Of course that has a dramatic effect on development, as Father Joe, the American priest who has been working for the last 30 years in the Klong Toei slum, pointed out when we asked him to come in and explain some of the issues of development. There are, he said, some 500 million amphetamine pills sold in Thailand each year. At 50 baht a pill thatâ€&#x;s about 25 billion baht (about $850 million CDN) a year going up in smoke instead of community development. Kids are commonly used as drug runners – usually girls, since the police are more reluctant to search them than boys. Naturally this destabilizes a community, often to the extent that development becomes nearly impossible. The question then is do you try to stabilize the community before you build or build in an effort to stabilize the community? If architects ignore that instability in development or, worse, add to the instability by inappropriate development (eg. destruction of existing housing and services), then they simply become part of the same problem of destabilization that drugs are. The fact is that good architectural design is not likely to solve the drug problem. On the other hand, bad design (inappropriate) will likely make things worse than they are already. Over the course of the project it became important to note with some regularity that the students were not doing community development but addressing physical design issues. It was all too easy, with the interrelationships between all these issues to get caught up in community economic development or training programs and so on instead of maintaining the focus on those more physical issues that related to the particular skills in architecture that the students were developing. Over the course of the project 3 presentations were made. The object of the first presentation is not a defence of a scheme, but rather to begin a dialogue with the community. As a result the means of communication had to be more than plans and elevations of proposals. In addition, the students had to learn to listen to what people were saying and be prepared to change their perceptions of the data. Based on the response of the community, the students then went back to the studio to revise their proposals accordingly for the second presentation. After that presentation, the students had to prepare a feasibility study that described the process they went through, the problems identified, the agreed-upon solutions to those problems, preliminary cost estimates for each project and, finally, identify potential funding sources for the projects. The feasibility study is prepared in both English and Thai so that the community can use it to present to funders. Over the years students have now worked with 8 different communities. Typically the design issues that arise are:

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Infrastructure development – water supply, circulation, waste Flood control Fire safety Open space – this often requires reblocking of the settlement Lack of community space Housing – ventilation, use of materials The most recent community projects were: A sites-and-services project in Thonburi that relocated several different communities from under bridges around the city (see Fig. 1)

Figure 1 - Thonburi sites-and-services project

A riverfront community facing eviction as a result of a proposed bridge crossing. (see Fig 2)

Figure 2 - riverfront community

Unfortunately, in the context of the existing curriculum, there is no time or opportunity for the students to take this to the next logical step and actually undertake some of these projects. I have proposed that these students supervise students coming into 4th who would do the construction of one of the identified projects over the summer. This would give the design students the opportunity to supervise their design and the incoming students experience in construction. Of course, it would also give something back to the community for their efforts in educating the students.

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CONSTRUCTION WORKER HOUSING

At a meeting of the local chapter of the Lighthouse Club – a construction industry charity founded in the UK – I saw a preliminary plan of the construction camp for the new international airport for Bangkok (see Figure 3 & 4). The plan called for a camp for about 16,000 workers plus another 30% for family members on 21 ha of land in the SW corner of the site. The preliminary design shows a grid (see Figure 4) laid out with 32 plots, each allocated to the various subcontractors. Each plot of 4400 sm had six blocks of housing comprised of 28 units of 3 m by 4 m with common toilets on the ground floor. In addition there was open space (about 8%) and common areas for a school, canteen, shops and administration space. Figure 3 - location plan of new airport The camp will grow as the project develops and will ultimately be dismantled when the project is finished. In looking at the plan, I was convinced that my students could do something better than what was proposed. The timing allowed for it to be a studio project.

Figure 4 - Airport site plan with construction camp in NE corner (lower right)

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Figure 5 - Campsite plan with 32 plots for housing, 2 central open spaces and commercial/service space on the east site (bottom)

There were three purposes to this studio design: 1. Research on:  construction workers and their living patterns  temporary buildings and cities (including sustainability issues concerning recyclables, etc.)  the construction process of the airport 2. prepare a set of recommendations for standards for construction camps 3. Based on those recommendations, design the airport construction camp that will house the construction workers and their families for the duration of the project. Along with this another problem was raised. Father Joe‟s organization, the Human Development Foundation, had one of his 34 preschools located in one of the construction camps at the airport. He wanted a new school built for the incoming children of the construction workers. How big should the school be? How many children between the ages of 2 and 5 or 6 would there be. The figure ranged as high as 15% of the total population. That would be a preschool for about 3500 children. Was that possible? I asked the airport officials where the 15% figure came from. They said the Lighthouse Club. I went to the Lighthouse Club and asked how they derived the figure. They said they got it from the airport officials. In other words, this was a guess. How accurate was it? The design of the school would be dramatically 7


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affected by the number. We needed to find out and the only way to do that was to get some information from interviewing the construction workers that were already on site.

Figure 7 - Mercy Centre school

Figure 6 - Ital-Thai construction camp

Figure 8 - Interior of Mercy Centre school

There were two camps there already. Ital-Thai, one of the major site prep contractors had an old site there (see Figure 6). It was here that Fr. Joe‟s existing preschool was located (see Figure 7). This school had about 80 children in it (see Figure 8). It would have to be relocated to the new site when it was prepared and there would have to be some additions made to accommodate a growing intake of children. My students, then, had another aspect to this project – to design the school for an unknown number of children. It would be their job to collect the appropriate data to determine the program requirements for the school. In addition, I wanted them to collect data on other forms of temporary housing:    

Other construction camps Refugee housing – the UNHCR-designed camps at the Burmese border Military camps – the Thai camp in East Timor Migrant farm workers – recalling Sandy Hirshen‟s background in California with them, I was fortunate to get some information on the work that he and Sim van der Ryn did back in the 60s 8


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In conducting this research a number of facts were revealed. Among them were: the minimum standard for floor space in shelter stated for refugee housing was 3.5 sm (UNHCR, 2000:370). In the examples the students reviewed, labourers were typically living in 3 sm or less. The standards for refugees were higher. In one construction camp for labourers working on a building on our own campus, labourers were making about 70 baht a day (under $2.50 CDN) less than half the minimum wage. No doubt the contractor was pocketing the difference to pay for their lodging, reminiscent of the stories that Steinbeck told in the Grapes of Wrath or that Robert Coles told in his commentary on the migrant farm workers in Uprooted Children. The conditions in construction camps were, to say the least, substandard (Figures 9 & 10).

Figure 9 - site plan of construction camp for KMUTT project

This raised the question about standards. If there were no local standards, were there any international ones similar to those of UNHCR? The International Labour Organization has standards1 but they are far too general to apply to this situation. As a result, establishing some standards became an important part of the project.

Figure 10 - KMUTT construction camp

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The solutions that the students devised generally improved on the orientation and the hierarchy of open space (see Figure 11).

Figure 11 - proposed block layout

Figure 12 - location of school in NE corner of camp site

In the end, the school was designed for approximately 600 children (see Figure 12). A compromise was made. The surveys indicated that the number of preschool children was closer to 10%. Still, at its peak capacity, the construction camp would have about 2500 children. Finances became a serious issue as well as space. Fr. Joe, the airport authorities and the Lighthouse Club (who were expected to fund at least part of the construction cost) decided that they would build for about 25% of that figure and hope for the best! In addition to the more general issues of density and standards, I wanted the students to begin to understand the conditions under which construction workers were living. These, after all, were the people who would be building 10


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the buildings these future architects would be designing. It seemed to me there was a connection between these conditions and the ability of these workers to meet the requirements of any proposed design or standard when they are tired, hungry and worried about the safety of their children on the site. 2.3.

THE PORTABLE PRESCHOOL

Related to that last point, another project initiated by the Lighthouse Club was the portable preschool. They were looking for a prototype that could be used on construction sites around Bangkok. As is typical in much of south and Southeast Asia, construction workers live on the site with their families. While mother and father are working on the site young preschool children will simply play on the site. In an effort to keep mom and dad from worrying (understandably) about their children while they work, and to provide some educational opportunities, the Lighthouse Club has funded two different schools for HDF including the one on the new airport site. They thought that a mobile prototype that could be moved with the construction workers from site to site would be a good idea. Since the term was just finishing when this proposal was made, I had to find volunteer students to work on this – motivated by something other than grades! Fortunately there were still a few that were not leaving the city for the summer and I cornered three of them to work with me on the project.

Figure 13 - exterior of school

Because the Lighthouse Club had possible access to some cheap or free containers, it was decided to use this as the starting point for design. The site for the prototype was in Ladprao, in eastern Bangkok. HDF had a preschool there that needed to be replaced (see Figure 13, 14). It was Figure 14 - interior of school composed of two tent structures with wooden slats as walls. The total area was 8m by 8m. Inside were 104 children and 4 teachers. I could see the need.

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In taking the project on, there were a number of principles that I wanted to maintain: 1.

To maximize use of funds This concerns two issues about how we direct our resources:  The question above about how we direct financial resources – capital costs or running costs  Doing as many things as possible with the allotted funds. If you are only doing one thing at once with the money – such as building a preschool – then you have not yet explored the possibilities. Every project should consider other uses to which it can be put (could this be an after school community centre or health clinic?) and other opportunities for training and/or teaching.

2.

To maximize circulation of funds Another way of maximizing the use of funds is to have them circulate through the community first (through the purchase of labour and/or materials). This is important not only for the promotion of a local economy but also to establish ownership of the project.

3.

To maximize user involvement Direct involvement in the design and development of the project is also critical in establishing ownership. This, in turn, has direct effects on the extended care of the building.

4.

To maximize local resources Wherever possible, local labour and materials should be used. This not only supports #2 above, it also directly supports the global concept of sustainability.

5.

To maximize learning opportunities In larger projects, for example, training and apprenticeship programs are an important part of the ongoing project. In smaller projects such as this, there are still opportunities. The one that interests me here, as in another project with HDF, is the opportunity to teach children something about the environment that surrounds them. How can we connect these kids to this building – a building that, as a prototype, moves around with them? They too have to have some way to take ownership of the space, to recognize it. For example, what if we had a fabric roof – like a tent roof – and before it was put up we had all the children dip their hands in big pans of different colours of paint, and, like the movie stars in Hollywood, put their hand prints on the lightcoloured fabric, forming a pattern that at once identifies it as a school space for young children and identifies it just as surely as their own. This relates, in a more general way, to the concepts of participation and to children‟s rights (see Articles 13 [freedom of expression] and 29 [human rights education] of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on http://www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm) 12


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The students pursued a similar process to the other projects by talking to the teachers and the members of the community, doing research on other similar concepts, investigating the site, observing the children and doing an inventory of the available infrastructure services in the community. In addition, they had to source appropriate materials and cost them out for the project. The design was expandable to suit different site/population conditions and, as a container, portable (see Figures 15, 16 & 17).

Figure 15 - section

Figure 17 - plan with core and walls dropped to expand floor

Figure 16 - plan showing expansion of school

It seemed to me, from this project, as well as those that preceded it, that there is an opportunity with any project to do much more than simply design a building. One of the great opportunities is to attach the project to the development of ideas. In this case, I wanted my students as well as the children themselves to understand a far more direct connection between architecture and some of these basic documents of human rights. If children

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have a right to expression, can this be implemented more directly through the spaces they inhabit? 2.4.

THE GIRLS’ HOME

The Girls‟ Home is another HDF project that is ongoing. It started about two and a half years ago in November of 1999 when I was asked by a friend of mine to take over his volunteer job of teaching English on Tuesday evenings to this group of about 40 girls ranging in age from about 4 to 17. There were in this shelter as a result of any number of tragedies that befall children in the slums – parents jailed for drug offences, parents dead from AIDS or overdoses, an abusive uncle or parents using the children as drug carriers and so on. As a result they were brought by the police or neighbours or the courts to this home (see Figure 18).

Figure 18 - Exterior of Girls' Home

I realized quite quickly that teaching English to children was not something I was well equipped to do. So after taking them through the first clause of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Dylan‟s Chimes of Freedom, I found myself beginning to bring in pictures and plans of buildings and using them as sources for vocabulary. In other words, I was falling back to things with which I felt more familiar and comfortable. I asked them to make their own drawing so I could use them as a source of vocabulary (see Figure 18). „Draw a house,‟ I said. What they drew had nothing whatever to do with their current environment. Was this country image wishful thinking or a cultural 14


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symbol? What was their sense of home? This question seemed particularly important to me considering the context of their current circumstances. I began to relate these abstractions – human rights, the concept of home more directly to their own space and their own lives. Why bring in drawings of anonymous buildings? Why not make a plan of this very room and start talking about it? Why couldn‟t this space of theirs be better? We were in this L-shaped room with institutional green walls. This space served as their play area, eating area, living room, and study area (see Figure 19) Why couldn‟t they be involved more directly in the formation of their built environment? Further, did they not, in fact, have the right to be more directly involved?

Figure 19 - The dining room where most of the activities took place in the Girls' Home.

Roger Hart pointed out, “Only through direct participation can children develop a genuine appreciation of democracy and a sense of their own competence and responsibility to participate.” (Hart, 1997:3) I felt this applied even more emphatically to my architecture students. They were being „professionalised‟ in the pejorative sense that concerned Illich in many of his books.2 As such they were moving away from those principles of the democratisation of knowledge and moving more towards becoming gate-keepers of it. This shift could only be reversed by example, by action. If we believe in the principle of democracy, we must act upon it in some way. The words of these constitutions and declarations and covenants were only as good as the actions that made them real.

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As I continued to work with them, my focus turned towards the means by which children, given their circumstances of displacement, can develop some sense of their ability and their right to have some control over their destiny and, in this instance, over their built environment. In order to begin that process they needed to have some basic knowledge about what is possible and they needed to see more than words in the Universal Declaration. For them to have meaning, there must be action associated with them. Further, if architecture was to have any real meaning, that meaning, like the meaning of the words we were reciting, would have to be judged by them, not architectural magazines. And architecture too would be judged by the actions we take in the world. Of course, that meant that, as an architect, my own actions in the world would be judged by my ability to relate these ideas to my own skills. I recalled Friere‟s admonition: It is a farce to affirm that men are people and thus should be free, yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality.” (Friere, 1972:26) I had to use what knowledge I had in some concrete way, in a way that moved beyond the straightforward supply of technical expertise to those who could afford it. If architecture is to have any relevance to society it must be here, in its relationship to rights. Architecture relates to dignity. Dignity is built on empowerment. Empowerment relates to the freedom of choice and that relates to access to and the use of information. Information must be democratised. What I had to do was develop an architecture program for these children, not an English program. I had to pass on information that I had – information that they could use to change their own environment. This was based on a couple of premises:  

that the information concerning architecture would be useful for them in improving their built environment, and that I could impart that information in some way.

The first premise is arguable. Can an understanding of architectural principles and processes actually be empowering? Emancipating? Le Corbusier posed that question in another form in his conclusion to Towards a New Architecture: “Architecture or Revolution. Revolution can be avoided.” I think Corb was being somewhat deterministic about architecture in saying that. In effect he was suggesting that this new architecture could make new people. What I am thinking about here is that knowledge of the principles of architecture can make individuals more aware of the choices they have in the built environment. Knowledge of the processes can expand awareness of the how decisions are made and by whom. Knowing that allows one to understand the leverage points of decisions about the built environment.

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The second premise could only be tested by trying it. In order to do that, though, I would need some information from people who have done this before. It was hard enough teaching something about architecture to young students who have already expressed an interest in architecture by enrolling in the program. Trying to teach young children would be quite a different matter. I would need some help with that. Not just with the language barrier between us but with devising a program for teaching something about architecture to kids of this age. With the help of the AIBC and their Architecture for Kids Resource Guide I worked with two volunteer students of mine to put together a 6 week program for the kids covering some basic issues of line, volume, colour and scale. In an attempt to join the abstract with the specific, I thought the kids could do something to change their own environment. While doing that, they could learn something about their ability to do so and then about their right to do so. This exercise was focussed on the colour of the dining room walls. I drew up an elevation of the north wall, made about 50 photocopies of it and, at our next Saturday lesson, handed them out for the children to colour in any way they wanted. I was hoping that we could go through a simulation of the development process with them. In essence, I thought, this wall was no different than a building in terms of the process involved:    

Conceptual design Approval of schematics (I wanted the girls to choose which one or combination of drawings they thought they could all live with) Jurisdictional approval – once the girls have decided, they would have to present it to the authorities for their approval. In this case, Fr. Joe, and the administration. Mobilization for construction (in this case I wanted to get the materials – paint, brushes and so on – and have the graphics department of HDF assist them in painting the wall themselves. In other words there would be no public tender!)

I got about 40 different sketches from them (see Figure 20).

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Figure 20 - one of the proposed treatments for the wall

Some of them were scribbles, while others were quite intense and exciting, at least to my eye. I wanted to see this implemented, if only to liven up the colour of the space. However, at that point I learned that the girls may have to move out of the building in any case. The hope that this exercise would lead to some sense of Turner‟s „dweller control‟ would be defeated entirely if they had to leave the place as soon as they made the effort to take some kind of ownership over it. Until I found out more about what was going on, it seemed counterproductive to pursue this exercise as anything more than simply fun with colour. This led to the next stage of the Girls‟ Home involvement. Despite the fact that the new Mercy Centre had space set aside for them, the staff and the kids, for a variety of reasons, did not really want to move into the new facility. Together with four 4th year students in my housing course, I wanted to make an argument for keeping the existing building and renovating it. My rationale was based on two ideas:  

It is a more sustainable practice It would allow the kids to have more design control over their environment.

Once again this provided a fertile training ground for my students. They would be working in a real situation with real clients – in this case, mainly children. They would have to go through a typical design process for a renovation: 18


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Assessment of the existing structure As-built drawings Client/user interviews (including participatory design) Concept drawings Presentation to client for review and approvals.

The focus of my interest in this was in getting the children involved in the design. The idea was developing that this is where the concepts of rights and democracy joined with the basic need for shelter. I viewed architecture as one of many tools by which we politicise and democratise the environment. Other tools of democratisation are the Declarations, Covenants, Conventions, Constitutions and laws that protect the rights of individuals to make choices and to be heard. For architecture to be a tool of democratisation, the process of design must be participatory. John Turner made that point many years ago in his writings. Colin Ward, in the Preface to Turner‟s book, Housing by People, summarized these as „Turner‟s three laws of housing‟: 1.

2. 3.

When dwellers control the major decisions and are free to make their own contribution to the design, construction or management of their housing, both the process and the environment produced stimulate individual and social wellbeing. The important thing about housing is not what it is, but what it does in people‟s lives. In other words, that dweller satisfaction is not necessarily related to the imposition of standards. The deficiencies and imperfections in your housing are infinitely more tolerable if they are your responsibility than if they are somebody else‟s. (Turner, 1976:5-6)

Central to these „laws‟ is the need for control. In turn, control over the built environment concerns autonomy. [S]ince physical survival and personal autonomy are the preconditions for any individual action in any culture, they constitute the most basic human needs – those which must be satisfied to some degree before actors can effectively participate in their form of life to achieve any other valued goals. (Doyal and Gough, 1991:54) Without autonomy, then, we cannot really talk rationally about human rights. How, then, can we encourage control? How can we encourage autonomy? How can we, beyond that, encourage active citizenship? These are all concerns, as well, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)3. Rights, autonomy, and, indeed, citizenship (and therefore democracy) is encouraged by the active engagement of people in the development of their own built environment.

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Figure 21 - existing ground floor plan of the home

Process - There were ten steps in this process: 1. MEASURE - The students were to measure the building one Saturday afternoon. As they measured, they would make a photographic record of the building and notes on problems they observed. (see existing plan, Figure 21) 2. DRAWING - As-built drawings were to be prepared and from those drawings a model built. This model would be a working model of the building that could be used by the children to understand the different parts of it. 3. KIDS With the model prepared, the students would go to the Girls‟ Home and began a participatory process with the children. There were three steps in this, initially: a. The children should be divided into four groups (one for each of my architecture students). b. Each group would take their „architect‟ for a tour around the building, pointing out problems that they saw. c. At the end of the tour, with the notes compiled by the students, everyone should return to the model and begin to make further comments about what could be changed and what couldn‟t. In order to get information the students would have to get them to draw their rooms and anything else they wished to draw. This process went on for about two more hours. (see Figure 22) 4. ADULTS - The staff and residents must be consulted about their needs. 5. CASE STUDY - By way of comparison, the students should visit the new Mercy Centre to see the Boys‟ Home and the services available there. 20


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6. ANALYSIS - With the information collected, the students must interpret all this data - the measured drawings, their own observations and the childrenâ€&#x;s comments and designs - into something they could use to develop a schematic design. 7. PROGRAM - A program was developed from this information. 8. DESIGN - With the program in hand, each student will develop his own design in response to the information. (see Figure 23) 9. PRESENTATION - Upon completion of the designs, each students will present their work to the children, staff and residents. 10. REPORT – A report recording the process and the conclusions must then be prepared for HDF

Figure 22 - children study the model of the proposed changes to their home

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.

Figure 26 - ground floor plan of scheme 1

Figure 24 - perspective of ground floor of scheme 3

Figure 25 - ground floor plan of scheme 2

Figure 23 - ground floor plan of Scheme 1

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Based in part on the report we prepared, HDF secured some funding to renovate the building. As a result, the kids moved out temporarily to the Mercy Centre in February 2002 and are still waiting to move back in. The contractor is doing piecemeal renovations based on verbal instructions and the children are wondering when they can move back in. We are now talking with the staff at the Girls‟ Home about expanding on the renovations to include: 

The kids must be involved in this. They have a right to make this their home. They‟ve been through enough displacement.

There must be a proper front door to the place. Make it a place! The entry must convey that sense of belongingness and the pride of „home‟ every time they come back from school and walk through that door.

All the existing stairs should be relocated. Otherwise the new plan, whatever it might be, will be forced into the same mould as the old one simply by the existing circulation pattern.

There must be more light into the centre of the building. There‟s more than enough floor space in the building that the loss of a single bay will not affect the usability of the space. In fact, it will improve it.

There must be proper fire exits.

As I left Bangkok, I passed a sketch to HDF indicating a location and size for the proposed fire exit along with a proposal for putting up a temporary partition at the north end of the building to separate a temporary dorm for the kids from the construction that would start after we go through a proper design process. One of my fellow faculty members is now working on some preliminary microclimate studies. By the end of May they should be able to move back into their home and by that time we should have some reasonable data from which to start the design process. One aspect of that is continued data collection and monitoring by the children. For example:  inputs into the building: energy, water, food, air change, materials. Where do they come from? Examine water sources, electrical sources, construction materials sources and so on.  outputs from the building: energy, waste (solid/liquid), air.investigation of methods of reducing both inputs and outputs. In this way, the kids get a much stronger sense of the relationship between the concept of sustainability and the actions one takes in the world (like turning out lights when you leave the room), including the design decisions you make.

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We hope this process will continue between June and August of 2002. Out that we want to achieve a design that supports the concepts of rights, democracy, autonomy, and sustainability. At the same time, children, clients and architecture students learn sometime about these relationships. The confluence of these ideas, it seems to me, are directly related to the „citizen architect‟ and how we define that term. 3.

THE CITIZEN ARCHITECT

I first heard this term sometime in the spring of 2001 in a CNN piece on the „Rural Studio‟, part of the Auburn University Architecture School. The Rural Studio was founded in 1993 by Sam Mockbee and Dennis Ruth. The reason CNN featured him and the work of the Rural Studio was that he had just received the $500,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award, the so-called genius award, for that work. What were they doing to receive such recognition? They were taking their students into rural Alabama and designing as well as building homes and community facilities for those in need, the rural poor. Why did they do it? The intention was “to allow students to put their educational values to work as citizens of a community. The Rural Studio seeks solutions to the needs of the community within the community's own context, not from outside it.” 4 Although it took some time to let this term percolate, I began to realize that it fit well with my growing sense that there was a clear relationship between rights and architecture. The term „citizen architect‟ cemented them together elegantly. But what does the term actually mean? How do we differentiate between the citizen architect and any other architect? I see three possible areas: 

The projects they undertake – housing, health and education sectors. However, that doesn‟t seem like a factor. After all, there are „regular‟ architects who specialize in each of these fields. There is no way to tell the difference between the two here.

The client – perhaps the citizen architect works only for those in the greatest need. However, there are many architects who specialize in working solely, for example, with people who are disabled or people with inadequate housing.

The approach to projects – perhaps the citizen architect is differentiated by a more participatory approach to design. Does he listen more? On the other hand, there are many architects who focus on programming. In such instances, how would one tell the difference between the two approaches?

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If the term is to be useful at all, there must be a clear distinction. It must be more than an emotive phrase. Clearly the descriptive word, „citizen‟ should be better clarified. Without delving into the Greek or Enlightenment philosophers, the concept of „citizen‟ could be viewed as: “self-empowered individuals ethically united by ideals of civic virtue, rational in their social policies, and completely free to participate through discourse and practice in the management of their cities . . .” (Bookchin, 1992:27) Among the characteristics citizenship, then, entails:      

Autonomy Responsibility to fellow citizens (a wide-ranging sense of duty) Engagement (rather than neutrality) A critical mind A commitment to personal development A keen understanding of justice, rights, democratic values and basic human needs

Going back to Mockbee and the work of the Rural Studio, there were a number of key elements in the work they did:   

 

It was directly for people in need It involved design and construction He was proactive rather than reactive – “Guided by recommendations from local community groups, Mockbee would sometimes knock on the doors of the most dilapidated shanties in Hale County and offer to build the residents a new home, community center or chapel.” (Dwyer, 2002) There was always a pedagogical element to any project There was always an underlying concern for democratic principles, social justice, dignity and equity.

Looking, then, at the commonalities in all of these projects there are a number of implications that should be considered. 4.

IMPLICATIONS

4.1.

citizenship and need Michael Ignatieff makes the point in his book, The Rights Revolution, makes a point about the obligations of citizens: “You may have next-door neighbours who fight. You can hear their arguments through the party wall. You don‟t have any right to intervene. It‟s their business. But if you hear a blow, a cry, and a call 25


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for help, you‟d be something less than a citizen, and possibly something less than a human being, if you didn‟t come through the door to break up the dispute.” (Ignatieff, 2000:50) Clearly we have an obligation, as citizens, to each other – obligations to both privacy and to assistance when in need. It is the latter that is more problematic. Kitty Genovese gave us that example when she was stabbed to death in March of 1964 in front of 38 people who did not come to her aid. Sociologists and psychologists have been pondering over the reasons ever since. Ignatieff, in an earlier book, The Needs of Strangers, makes the point that the state itself creates a mediated quality between citizens. It becomes the state‟s obligation to respond, not our own. “[T]his mediation walls us off from each other.” (Ignatieff, 1984:10) That wall, I think, can protect us from hearing those cries for help around us. We can ignore them either by rationalizing that it is not a cry for help or by saying it is the problem of the state, indeed, of professionals (social workers, psychologists, politicians and so on – people properly trained for such things). In either case, unlike Sam Mockbee, we do not go knocking on doors, seeking out problems. 4.2

democratic principles There are at least two interrelated aspects to enacting these democratic principles in architecture:  

Participation Access to information

Participation must be more than simply participating in a process led by professionals. It must involve control. John Turner made that point many years ago in his writings. Colin Ward, in the Preface to Turner‟s book, Housing by People, summarized these as „Turner‟s three laws of housing‟: 1.

2. 3.

When dwellers control the major decisions and are free to make their own contribution to the design, construction or management of their housing, both the process and the environment produced stimulate individual and social wellbeing. The important thing about housing is not what it is, but what it does in people‟s lives. In other words, that dweller satisfaction is not necessarily related to the imposition of standards. The deficiencies and imperfections in your housing are infinitely more tolerable if they are your responsibility than if they are somebody else‟s. (Turner, 1976:5-6)

Central to these „laws‟ is the need for control. In turn, control over the built environment concerns autonomy.

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Without access to information, participation and control are moot. Both access and control are essential for autonomy and autonomy is critical to a thriving democracy. 4.3

simultaneity All development addresses a number of issues simultaneously. Turner makes this point by saying that it is not what housing is but what it does. It is a process more than it is a product. In that, we must see any development or project in a context. That context is more than simply its environment. It necessarily concerns the needs and aspirations of the particular community in which the development occurs. This includes the economic opportunities available in the community, their skills, educational opportunities, tenure and so on. Every project, of course, as I have tried to indicate in all of these examples, is an opportunity for education – not only for students, but for clients, users, and the community at large. We cannot afford to ignore those opportunities.

5.

AN ACTION PLAN

Given the obligations of the profession implied by the Architectâ€&#x;s Act, we must be vigilant in our assessment of our duties. What are they? Surely they must support these basic ideals of democracy and justice. If so, are we meeting them? Are we doing enough? I am reminded of a statement made by the civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. when he addressed the AIA annual conference in 1968: ". . . you are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights, and I am sure this does not come to you as any shock. You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance." While there are a number of signs that we have since made some useful responses to that damning observation, I would say we have no cause to feel any sense of accomplishment about meeting these duties we have to society. Our priorities, like those of other professions, tend to be insular and self-absorbed. As Robert Venturi put it in his influential manifesto, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, "The architect's ever diminishing power and his growing ineffectualness in shaping the whole environment can perhaps be reversed, ironically, by narrowing his concerns and concentrating on his own job. Perhaps then relationships and power will take care of themselves." (Venturi, 1966:20) Our job is larger than we might like to think. I would submit that our duties are first to the basic principles of a free society. We must accept our 27


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responsibilities as citizens first. I think this is the thrust of Mockbee‟s use of the phrase, „citizen architect‟. Our obligations are first to each other as human beings. The „architect‟ is really only a subset of that. If we are, as a profession, to engage those obligations there are some things I think we could do. When I arrived in Bangkok, I had an unfocussed idea of how we could join these basic concepts of architecture and human rights. Over the four years there, and, more recently, hearing Mockbee‟s evocative use of the term, I am beginning to draw a number of tentative conclusions about a course of action – at least in education. In architectural education, I see a continuum of skills and knowledge from kids, to lay people to the citizen architect: 5.1

Kids and Architecture

It is one thing to have such a program in an institutional setting – such as Fr. Joe‟s Girls‟ Home or in an existing school program – but quite another to try to do this in the more informal setting of existing slums. The program I see is for mid-level students in this curriculum to spend a summer teaching children about the basics of architecture. This would entail more than simply going through a well-developed 8 week program. In order to start, the students would first have to find a place and a time in the existing community for this to happen. This would mean some level of organizing within the community to find the time and place and to gather up the children to do it. The program would have to be conducted in the language of the community so it would require that the students be from that community. Further, the students would require some training in community organizing as well as some teaching skills. 5.2

Barefoot Architecture

Starting from the ESCAP/UNESCO workshop in Bangkok in 1983 5, I see a sort of outreach program from an architecture school that offers largely distance education in architecture and planning in the rural areas. My focus here would be as much on long term refugees, such as the Burmese on the border who have been there for years or the refugees in south-western Algeria that have been there for more than 20 years now. In this case the idea would be to offer some training in the rebuilding of a country once the cause of flight has been resolved - as it has now in East Timor. This would involve short courses in planning, structure, and design for lay people.

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5.3

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An alternative curriculum

I am not suggesting that every architecture school change its curriculum. I am suggesting, though, that there is ample room for an alternative professional degree program – one that more directly addresses these issues of rights and basic needs. I see the program as international in nature – perhaps like the International Baccalaureate program in high schools, in that there are schools throughout the world but the standard and curriculum are common between them. Although still meeting the NAAB standards, I would see the emphasis shift somewhat:    

5.4

Experience on construction sites (building experience) – minimum half year Minimum half year experience in architect‟s office Minimum # of hours of community service (similar to the International Baccalaureate program) Some revisions to a core curriculum to include required courses on Ethics, sustainability, housing, community development, participatory techniques, basic needs and rights, as well as appropriate technology in addition to the standard core – history, structures, materials, etc.) Community Design Centre

This is an old idea that is still in place in some areas of the US and England but it is worth expanding particularly to allow for the continuity of projects beyond semesters. In essence, the CDC, based out of the university develops projects within the community. What is developed is generally at the feasibility stage rather than the working drawing stage. Many communities recognize the need for particular projects but do not have the expertise to develop them to the point of being able to attract funding. There is, of course, a transition between the CDC and the profession itself. 6.

CONCLUSION

With somewhere around 1 billion people on this planet effectively homeless, there is, I would suggest, a great thundering howl for help on the other side of that party wall. As citizens and as professionals we are duty-bound to respond. However, in that response – and this is where I found Mockbee‟s phrase most instructive – we must be mindful of these overriding principles of democracy. The words of the Universal Declaration, of our Constitution, of the US Declaration of Independence are not just words – they are principles that guide our actions. Principles, indeed, that bind us together as citizens, as human beings.

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In the course of preparing this paper and asking everyone questions, I was asked one myself: “Do you feel like a citizen?” It was asked because of my own situation, living in a foreign country with no right to vote (taxed without representation) – a resident alien. Do I feel Canadian at such a distance in space and time? When I consider the principles that bind us together as human beings, I believe it is time we began to think beyond our national borders, and seek out those things that we have in common. We are all citizens of this planet. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We all seek some level of liberty in our lives, some level of autonomy. As has been said, when that is diminished for one, it is diminished for all – whether it‟s oxygen, or water or freedom. As architects, in all our actions, we must support that. It is the simple and profound act of being a responsible citizen.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ARNSTON, Carole. Architecture for Kids. Vancouver: Architectural Institute of British Columbia, 1997. BOOKCHIN, Murray. Urbanization without Cities: The Rise and Decline of Citizenship. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1992. COLES, Robert. Uprooted Children: The Early Life of Migrant Farm Workers. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. DOYAL, Len & GOUGH, Ian. A Theory of Human Need. London: The Macmillan Press, 1991) DWYER, Jim. “Samuel Mockbee, Obituary”. New York Times, 06 Jan 02. FRIERE, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin Books, 1972. HART, Roger. Children’s Participation: The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens in Community Development and Environmental Care. London: Earthscan Publications, Ltd., 1997. IGNATIEFF, Michael. The Needs of Strangers. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. . The Rights Revolution. Toronto: Anansi Press, 2000. TURNER, John F.C. Housing by People: Towards Autonomy in Building Environments. London: Marion Boyars, 1976.

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UNICEF. A Child’s Right to Sustainable Development. See http://www.unicef.org/programme/wes/pubs/right/rio_e.pdf United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Handbook for Emergencies. Geneva: UNHCR, 2000. VENTURI, Robert. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: The Museum of Modernn Art, 1966. YOUNG, JR., Whitney M. "Man and His Social Conscience". pp. 44-49, AIA Journal, Vol 50:3, September 1968.

1

See http://ilolex.ilo.ch:1567/english/convdisp1.htm for the Safety and Health in Construction Convention, 1988, particularly Article 32, Welfare. 2

See particularly Disabling Professions, London: Boyars, 1977

3

Particularly Article 13 (freedom of expression) and 29 (human rights education)

4

See http://www.arch.auburn.edu/ruralstudio/HTML/html%20index.htm

5

See UNESCO. Training of 'Barefoot' Architects. Report of a Working Group, Workshop held in Bangkok, 30 MAY - 04 JUN, 1983. Bangkok: UNESCO, 1983

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