Are designer’s only observers, autonomous creators, self interested professions, victims of the market or can they also be enablers, activists and resistive agents within their field? Through their work, designers/architects have been tackling large infrastructural, ecological, urban, and regional systems and through their involvement with public buildings, they have touched upon culture, religion, and education among others. Following a shift in the scale of their tasks in the past few decades, it appears that architects and designers at large have acquired more power to shape their environments. They concretize social, political and economic interactions and can have an agency in their production. Therefore design practices can have a more active and transformative influence in shaping contemporary urban realities. Although urban environments and their design cannot single-handedly solve deep-rooted problems, they, coupled with political and social conditions, can alter and affect each other.
Therefore, architects should no longer be submissive to the demands of clients and their agendas and programs but should be part of shaping the agenda and the strategy to achieve it. International institutional buildings that have emerged as a type of office building that will produce peace is an example of a typology that the architect on the project should challenge. Even though a building to house bureaucratic needs is inevitable yet if the reality is to create dialogue and coexistence or bring the international community closer to its source of intervention these building have clearly failed as spaces.
|Walls wrap the building entrances seen in Google earth (no pictures of ESCWA walls are allowed)|
Look at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia , ESCWA, in Beirut for example. A huge building, set up in Beirut, has built huge concrete and sand walls around it with constant armed guards walking around. This building has created a gated pocket in Beirut that’s sits in the city’s most expensive and inaccessible real estate surrounded by high walls as a prove to the failure of such spaces specifically in urban contexts.
Yet if agendas of public buildings and their budgets are used to build institutions that in themselves will help in achieving their agendas and are accessible and open then architects and designers transform their interventions from objects within the landscape to spaces that can unite and invite and encourage certain interactions.