An Unsentimental Look at Architecture and Social Craft

Designers of the built environment have had an on-again/off-again relationship with social agency. Progressive design and social outcomes were closely linked in early modernism. However, they diverged later in the twentieth century. We are once again witnessing an elevated interest in their linkage. To date, however, we lack the ability to articulate what forms of social impact are actually within the architect’s scope. The majority of the praise given to projects of perceived societal value is limited to the project’s social benefit program or its underserved community context. While these are important factors we need to look beyond these attributes to realize the built environment’s full capacity for cultural change. This course will lay the groundwork necessary to ask questions such as, “What are the social impact and opportunity of a commercial midrise in downtown London? What are the social outcomes of an interior renovation for a corporate law firm?”

Because this area of knowledge is so nascent, we will use dialog as the exploratory tool and final products of the course, in the form of high production value videos. Students will work in small teams to facilitate conversations with a select group of notable professionals, both supporters and detractors, within this area of practice and research, and relevant stakeholders in the social sector. Students will develop facilitation and interview skills and apply this craft to the content and context of the interviews that they will lead. The precision of these interviews will be developed through research on the subject’s perspective and the particular value they bring to this issue. Students will also learn video and video editing skills as these conversations will be captured, curated, and posted as a film series intended to advance the larger discourse on this critical topic.