Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2003

September Symposium Planning

by Mui Ho
Date : 13 September 2003

The symposium is only six months away. All speakers have been asked to develop presentations loosely structured around the title "Toward an Engaged Architecture" We have developed a series of topics to be considered which we presented in the form of a letter to the participants:

Dear [Symposium Participant],
The OWA celebration plans proceed apace, with some distress about another possible war. We are working on publicity for the symposium, and would like to finalize the title before mid-March. We are also seriously considering publication of the papers, either through a press, or through OWA itself, as a memento of our 30th Anniversary. If we pursue publication, is it realistic to request your final draft three weeks after the symposium?

After much thought and discussion, we have chosen the following title: "Towards an Engaged Architecture." This title has been chosen to avoid being typecast by buzz-words such as modern, urbanist, green, and so forth, and also to give you latitude to formulate your thoughts and titles for your presentations.
Is architecture relevant today? Over the last thirty years, Architecture has been marginalized to theoretical debates within elite architecture schools, or is traded like any commercial commodity of our global economy. At best, through imaginative and novel designs, it has come to embody the artistic aims of cultural foundations, or the charitable branches of multinational corporations. At worst, through uncritical solutions and processes driven by economics, it has failed to improve the environmental and social conditions of our lives in any appreciable way.

For our discussion, please prepare illustrated analyses of recent engaged and relevant architecture (from the last 50 years), by both women and men. Regional or international in stature, we would like to review and appreciate successful examples of architecture and urban design that may serve as models to designers in the future. Consider the different domains of engagement, pedagogy, urban planning practice, design practice, and architectural theory, and reflect on their unique and distinctive potentials.

Finally, can we create a road map for an engaged architecture for the 21st century? Can we infuse architecture, once again, with a sense of urgency, and a social responsibility at the local, urban, and global scale? What are the forms of engagement for urban citizenship in the contemporary world? Will local action and global action demand different sets of faculties and design approaches? We believe that the call for an engaged architecture presupposes a new relationship between architect and community. It is our charge to revisit and redefine, if necessary, our roles as architects and educators in the 21st century, and to examine how we can realize a new agenda for architecture through our work as citizens of the world.

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