Widening the Eye (of the Storm)

“I often compare the situation of living in the United States to being in the eye of the storm. When you are standing in the eye of the storm, everything seems calm. But as you step away… you realize that this storm you’re at the center of is changing the rest of the world dramatically.” -Sergio Palleroni

The eye of the storm is the safe place where architects design for those who can afford, which in recent years, is a population that has grown smaller and tighter. These clients believe that they will be able to escape the whipping winds and storms of inadequate housing and unsafe neighborhoods.

They (both architects and the clients) are mistaken.

Architects, if continuing down the path of serving the paying, wealthy clients, will soon see that there will be a limiting amount of work available for them to bid for. The education system teaches students how to design museums and skyscrapers and custom residential homes, and neglect the notion that small, community-based projects exist.

One benefit of reaching out to public interest design type architecture is that there will always be work. Communities can always improve and design is always needed.

According to David Baker of David Baker Architects: “Then, when that [housing bubble] collapsed, we had our first two major affordable, nonprofit clients walk in the door and say, ‘Hey, do you want to take a look at this project?'” The two projects filled in the usual market rate work, which had all died due to the crisis.

Because David Baker Architects were open to reaching outside of the eye of the storm, they were able to survive what many firms could not.

It is important that architects reach outside of the typical dream of designing a mansion or a city hall, and widen their eyes to indigent people and communities in need of basic shelter and sanitation. By doing this, we can widen the eye of the storm to encompass those in need, instead of fooling ourselves that the ever-so-slightly tightening of the eye will not touch us.

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