Not Just a Luxury!

“As society evolves let us strive for the improvement of the lives of all, not just the privileged few.” (P. 15). [Bryan Bell]

 Architecture has played a great role throughout history. Although the definition of architecture seems to be hit or miss. Architecture has traditionally been for the population that can afford it. Although its need is found in the greater population that cannot afford it. This seems a bit ironic, to have and not need (well not need it as much) versus the opposite of needing it and not having it. Such is life. Something is missing because this should not be the case.

According to the article Public-Interest Architecture: A Needed and Inevitable Change written by Thomas Fisher, “one-fourth of all American households-some 30 million families-lack adequate housing or the funds to secure such housing…” (P. 8). It does not take much to realize that this system is broken. The question comes up about how to address this issue. In all honesty there may not be a one-size fits all solution but it doesn’t hurt to try different methods. Fisher, “architecture and all the design professions are undergoing a major transformation that is both proactive and reactive: proactive as a search for roles with greater relevance, and reactive as a response to the humanitarian and environmental crises facing the world.” (P. 7).

Unveiling the root of the problem has been a challenge because of the stigma attached to issues that plague the population that would most benefit from public interest design. However, if this problem is going to be addressed with sincerity the problem needs to be tackled head-on. The truth can be ugly but ignoring it does not mean that the problems disappear for the many nameless faces that are in need of the services offered through public interest design. Egos aside, architecture needs to be about designing for 100% of the population. Fisher, “The recent transformation in the governmental perception of the homelessness is a case in point. Once research showed that it is far more expensive for people to remain on the streets than to be housed, because of the number of police interventions and emergency room visits that the unhoused generate, local and state governments began providing the supportive housing needed to get people off the streets.” (P. 11). According to Bryan Bell, “good design has the potential to benefit many more people than it currently does. Design can play a direct role in addressing critical social issues that we face.” (P. 14).

Public interest design can meet people’s needs on a very basic level. However, it should not be about cutting corners. Public interest design is a necessity not just a luxury, and it should be executed with precision and integrity. Paulo Freire, “society reveals itself as something unfinished, not as something inexorably given; it becomes a challenge rather than a hopeless limitation.” (P. 18). This country has been raised on the value of hope, which is a wonderful place to start.

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