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Graeme Bristol

THE CITIZEN ARCHITECT

MAY 2002

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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Citizen Architect 2002  

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 abo...

Citizen Architect 2002  

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 abo...

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