A few days ago, the ‘manifesto’ written by the architect Patrick Schumacher was released to the public. The current head of the office formerly led by the recently deceased Zaha Hadid, insists that it is essential to implement policies that not only privatize public services and social housing (a strategy already used in Madrid where the former city council sold part of its social housing assets to vulture funds, with devastating effects), but which also – and this is new – privatize public space, especially parks and gardens. He bases his thesis on the well-worn argument that only free competition and the free market guarantee the best use.
Whilst an exhaustive analysis of the merits of P. Schumacher’s opinion seems uncalled for, it does seem appropriate to reflect on what we might term the ‘de-ideologization’ of an overwhelming majority of architects, particularly in the capitalist West.
It is interesting to note that these comments have given rise to complicit silence, if not consent, on the part of all the stars in the architectural firmament – in the United Kingdom and in our neighbouring countries – while a choir of admirers, as well as a good number of politicians, voice opinions in favour of ‘de-ideologized’ architecture, detached from the real needs of the world today. Economic interests, egos or any other excuse to erect buildings that have little or nothing to do with the needs of a global world, seem to come before the architect’s ethical commitment and thus the powers that be manage to build for their own glory, while contemplating their navels.
We miss that recent, albeit short-lived, time when more than just a handful of committed architects was keenly devoted to convincing those in power of the value of architecture as a tool to transform society without renouncing beauty, by designing and erecting all kinds of buildings built to fit social needs and which in many cases have remained as an example of authentic architecture.
Enrique Fombella, 22 November 2016