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Graeme Bristol

THE CITIZEN ARCHITECT

MAY 2002

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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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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