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Can architecture play a positive role in the war against poverty?
This question lies that the heart of Architecture’s Poverty in which Nezar AlSayyad argues that too often architects working with the poor pursue the traditional professional/client approach. As a result, they design for, rather than with the poor, and apply practices ill-suited to the needs of poor communities. Further, some development aid agencies working with architects take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to providing for the poor, assuming that speed of delivery is all important.
He traces the changing role and education of architects over time and in different geographical contexts. He describes how in the early twentieth century architecture focused on generating practical built solutions for complicated social and political problems, but later forgot its social mission, focusing instead on image and spectacle. He goes on to show how today both pedagogic and professional interventions, too often view poverty almost exclusively through the landscape of the slum – a situation exacerbated in some cases by international media coverage.
Finally, he argues that for architecture to contribute to poverty action, practice must extend beyond the traditional definitions to include approaches to pedagogy and practice that challenge the hierarchical and superficial approaches that benefit architects more than the communities they claim to serve.