Posts tagged with "Labor Issues":

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Patrik Schumacher claims limiting work hours could paralyze offices

In an era where work-life balance and workplace culture have become major issues in the design industry, Patrik Schumacher says we have nothing to worry about. During a panel at Dezeen Day in London last week, the principal of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) clashed with Pratt Institute School of Architecture dean Harriet Harriss, claiming that measures to limit the exploitation of employees could lead to the “paralyzing” of firms like ZHA. "This is a competitive place where people are eager, have passionate and want to succeed and want to do something," said Schumacher. "But you can't do that if you're told that if work beyond eight hours you can observe exploitation, and something is wrong with you." Schumacher’s comments came in response to Harriss’s claim that overtime culture actually curtails productivity. "It's very important to just bust the myth here that longer hours equals productivity," Harriss remarked, adding that “What we are doing, arguably, is making permissible forms of labor exploitation, and creating work-life balance that often triggers mental health [issues]. And we know this is a pretty serious issue in education at the moment.” “I don’t like your philosophy,” responded Schumacher, claiming that it is a slippery slope for a “socialist world of stagnation” that he has observed in European labor culture. The panel discussion, Fixing Education, also included Neil Pinder, architecture and design teacher at Graveney School in London, and Stacie Woolsey, a young designer who came to prominence after creating her own master’s degree program in response to the lack of affordability in institutional programs. The four professionals were brought together to discuss how to better prepare architecture and design students for the demands of the profession. The comments were not Schumacher’s first foray into criticizing the trajectory of design education. Over the summer, he published a Facebook manifesto entitled “13 theses on the crisis of architectural academia,” citing issues such as teachers without sufficient professional experience, generally uninspiring portfolios from graduates, and a sense of detachment between education and the profession. The ZHA principal has also come under fire for his stance on unpaid internships, as he claimed in 2016 that such work is "the result of a well-functioning market." In an agree-to-disagree resolution, Harriss dismissed Schumacher’s views as outdated, adding that the long-hour discussion is only a small piece of a larger the larger problem of accessibility within the industry.
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Section of Architectural Workers sets up union efforts in London

The first union for architects has been founded in London. The Section of Architectural Workers (SAW) aims to improve the toxic design culture of overwork and address issues like stagnating wages, discrimination, and industry-wide attitudes towards mental health.  SAW operates within the United Voices of the World (UVM), a relatively young but influential union based in London with 3,000 members. According to the Architects' Journal, a SAW spokesperson said some of its members had been working 60 hours of overtime per week, while others hadn't taken a weekend break for four months. The union is supported by many architects and administrators in the field, including notable alumni of the University College London Bartlett School of Architecture Thandi Loewenson, Jane Rendell, and David Roberts. They describe the unionization as a "landmark moment in the ethical production of the built environment."  The industry has steadily felt the pressure to take on big-ticket, ground-up built projects with low-risk profiles to compensate for tight competition over projects and wages. Kate Macintosh, a London-based architect and union member, told AJ that the "toxic system" has penetrated the profession since 1979. "Those rights have been steadily eroded to the point where one in three of the workforce are on zero-hours contracts and typically work 25 hours a week.”  The culture of overwork trickles down even to unpaid interns, who often work from 9 a.m. to well into the evening—sometimes past midnight—consistently. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Junya Ishigama, made headlines after the press discovered the architect solicited unpaid interns to assist in its fabrication. Subsequently, it was revealed just how widespread the practice was. Not only was the inquiry illuminating of the lack of pay but also the degree of overwork even the youngest in the profession are expected to take on. An internship job posting for Lot-Ek also announced this in plain language last March:
 
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Alleged email from Lot-ek Architecture & Design New York, March 2018. The office have been approached for comment - #arch4all #archishame

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While architectural workers have attempted to unionize before and other varieties of unions like the construction-sector UCATT have tried to attract architects to join them, no effort has ever come to fruition quite like SAW. The breadth of professionals enveloped and supported by SAW, from architects to BIM technicians and cleaners, are using this platform to help support each other and therefore support their industry from top to bottom.  “It will transform the environment in which we work, encouraging and empowering us all to step up and speak out to confront systemic social injustices and inequality, climate breakdown and biodiversity loss,” said SAW, asserting that unionization will allow architects and their firms to focus on the projects that really matter, rather than who stays at their desk the latest.
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Why don’t architects have unions?

In late August 2019, the AIA’s New York chapter hosted a panel moderated by architecture activist group The Architecture Lobby at the Center for Architecture called Firm Handbook and Best Practices for Office Policies. After all the panelists finished listing their offices’ progressive policies, including flexible work hours and codes of conduct, an audience member (in a crowd notably stacked with Lobby members, myself included) asked a question about unions and collective bargaining. The associate director of human resources of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates responded: “Is this a case of wanting a union because the people suggesting it feel like the employer is the jerk and has to be controlled? Or, are you just saying you want to be able to give feedback and be heard and help influence the culture of the firm? Those are two very different things. If the general industry is really that bad and needs to be regulated by something like a union, then we all have a problem.” This statement is ripe for analysis that could keep us here for days, but let’s keep to a few key points. First, what is a union? By our HR professional’s estimation, it is a mechanism for controlling jerks in power. More accurately, however, a union is a twofold agreement. The first part of the agreement is between all the workers of a company or sector to elect representatives to negotiate their interests with the managers and owners of that company or sector. This is collective bargaining, to which everyone has the right under U.S. law. The second agreement is between workers and management that the union will be recognized, have a seat at the table, and be able to negotiate the terms of their employment. Within the scaffolding of this structure, a union can look like and achieve whatever it can agree on collectively, which—and hopefully to our HR professional’s delight—includes giving feedback and influencing company culture.  Now, does the desire for unionization indicate an industry-wide crisis? Yes, it does, but this crisis is not caused by unionization. Rather, unionization is a tool to address it. But this crisis is not unique to architecture. It is a broader issue about the rising precarity for workers in an economy where there are fewer and fewer paths for stability, where the gig economy is the economy, and workers have little choice but to cling to whatever benefits they are given. So to our HR professional’s point, we do all have a problem. A progressive firm owner may point to their policies—as many on the Firm Handbook and Best Practices for Office Policies panel did—and protest “we have health insurance, parental leave, paid overtime, flexible hours, etc.,” and all of these policies are crucial, but they are not the same as worker power. Worker power is not a cudgel to be used against management or regulate an industry; it’s a tool to ensure stability.  The question of why architectural workers (a term that includes designers as well as the administrative, communications, human resources, and business development workers who make the profession externally legible) haven’t unionized is richly complicated. It has as much to do with general labor consciousness under capitalism in the United States as it does with the idiosyncratic structure of the profession itself. It is difficult for workers who consider themselves middle class to imagine that they need a union. It difficult for workers who manage themselves on baroque systems of informal interpersonal relationships (“Our office is a family!”) to imagine they need a union. It is most acutely difficult for workers who do not consider themselves workers at all to imagine they need a union (this point explained is with greater clarity in Marisa Cortright’s excellent piece in Failed Architecture).   In the United States, the middle class is not a solid status. What we have instead is a gradient between precarity and privilege. However, from The Fountainhead to How I Met Your Mother, popular representations of architects code the profession as comfortably middle (or even upper) class. When I speak with architectural workers in the Architecture Lobby about unions, one of their top motivations for pursuing unionization is the gap between their material conditions and the myth of middle-class status. We ask each other, on your salary and benefits alone, can you afford a medical crisis? A pregnancy? Student loan payments? A mortgage? Retirement? Yet one of the many hesitations about unionization is the hope that keeping their heads down and eventually being promoted to management will afford them these forms of stability. But in most architecture firms, even those with yearly reviews, the path to promotion is murky and the trained managerial class is flimsy at best. This stagnation leads to instability, with workers leaving to seek opportunity elsewhere and often getting stuck again. Firms then find themselves retraining and retraining staff while steadily losing institutional memory. I’ve heard architects compare themselves to doctors and lawyers when considering their material conditions, citing length of training and licensure as similarities. But have architects made themselves as essential to society as doctors and lawyers? I do not ask this to insist architects do not deserve to be paid more. However, the purpose of an architecture union should not be to enshine architects materially among a professionalized working elite. I ask this question to point out that architecture has both enjoyed and been limited by an ambiguous position in society, where its value is guarded by mystique. When we feel pain, we look to doctors. When we find ourselves in legal trouble, we look to lawyers. But what triggers a commonplace social need for architects? Unionization would create an opportunity for architects to collectively clarify the profession’s relationship to society by standing in solidarity with all architectural workers and giving a structure for architectural workers to be in solidarity with other organized workforces. As an example, the Service Employees International Union includes healthcare workers who have both created a bargaining structure with their managers as well as a means to advocate for the type of healthcare system they would like to work in. Their advocacy helped to realize the Affordable Care Act. What could a united architectural workforce realize within and beyond the profession? As a member of the Architecture Lobby, which firmly believes in unionization as a tool to bring greater stability to the architectural labor force and to give a clear societal voice to the profession, I talk to architectural workers to help them understand what they can achieve in their offices and beyond. When we begin to talk to each other without fear or withholding, when we are transparent about our experiences, our salaries, our benefits, and our ambitions, when we come together as workers, the shape of the profession becomes more distinct and easier for those beyond the extremely wealthy to connect to. In this condition, a stable and united workforce has the ability to make our perspective essential to society on issues like climate, infrastructure, alternative practice, speculative development, securitization of public space, and much more.  In his essay “Black Box,” Reyner Bahman once quoted the funny anecdote of an architect being “asked for a pencil that could be used to tighten the tourniquet on the limb of a person bleeding to death in the street.” The architect responds “Will a 2B do?” It’s often used to bemoan the profession’s useless fussiness. But the architect had a pencil. The tool was in hand. It’s the mindset that’s missing.  Jessica Myers is an editor, writer, and podcast producer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-steward of New York’s Architecture Lobby chapter.
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55 construction deaths confirmed at the $12 billion Istanbul Airport

Architects’ Journal and Construction News have collaborated on an investigation into the construction safety issues at Turkey’s new $12 billion Istanbul Airport, a project that resulted in an official death toll of 55 over its four-year build-out. While it’s recently come to light that there were substantial human rights violations happening on-site, this new report contributes further evidence that’s even difficult to read. It details the individual stories of several migrant workers who witnessed these deaths firsthand, as well as insight into the horrible living and working conditions there. Considered the largest airport in the world at 818 million square feet (25 percent larger than Manhattan), the Istanbul Airport has been lauded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the last two decades. It was developed by a joint venture group called iGA, which includes several large Turkish contractors and other international companies. The airport’s design has also won numerous awards thanks to a large-scale design effort by three British firms: Grimshaw, Scott Brownrigg, and Haptic Architects, as well as Oslo-based practice Nordic, and two Turkish firms Fonksiyon and TAM/Kiklop.  Phase one of the project opened in April with three runways and 15 million square feet of terminal space. The remaining three phases are expected to be completed by 2025 and together will accommodate up to 200 million passengers annually.  Though the Istanbul Airport boasts these extreme numbers, the human cost of building the mega-structure can never outweigh its prominence on the world’s stage, according to those interviewed by AJ and Construction News. The report describes two horrific deaths, as well as primary accounts of the bed bug-ridden workers’ accommodations, the lack of running water on site, and the mistreatment of laborers by construction management. Some were silenced for simply asking about the number of screws needed for a roof panel.  After protests broke out in September of last year where Turkish police used violence against the workers, the situation drew international attention and received criticism from Human Rights Watch. With more eyes on the scene, it was confirmed this January that 55 people had died during construction, though AJ has found that the actual number could be as high as 400 or more.  Over the last few months, the architecture firms involved with the airport have continued to promote the project despite rumors of the workers’ conditions. Posts have gone up on social media, design work has been exhibited, and the projects have been entered for further awards. AJ questioned whether this was ethically appropriate given the deaths on-site, posing the question, “What do the workers who endured life in ‘the cemetery’–as the project was nicknamed–think of the involvement of the international architects?” Eyal Weizman, founder of Forensic Architecture, told AJ the profession has a major problem in its constant push for publicity and larger-scale megaprojects. Global contemporary architecture, he said, exists in a disturbing “pharaonic dimension.”  “These projects are made mainly for the affluent sections of society and are built by a poorer migrant workforce under grueling conditions and schedules,” said Weizman. “A building like this should be a monument or a memorial. It should be dedicated to the casualties that its architecture and its delivery demanded.”
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A new group of experts wants to eradicate modern slavery in the built environment

This article appears in the September print edition of The Architect's Newspaper.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated that 24.9 million people around the world are enslaved in forced labor. Although the practice underpins much of the global 21st-century building economy—for example, the index noted that of all imports to the United States that are at risk of being produced under conditions of modern slavery, timber was the fifth largest by value—its invisibility to many in the U.S. has kept the issue from attracting widespread professional attention.

But as consumers become more concerned with where their pants are being made, who grows their coffee beans, and their electricity use, it’s reasonable to expect them to demand that the architecture they inhabit is realized without slave labor, too. The U.S. garment industry—which last year imported $47 billion worth of slave-produced pieces from China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other countries—has been slowly responding to awareness around its corrupt supply chains, and the New Canaan, Connecticut–based Grace Farms Foundation (GFF) wants the building industry to be next.

The design world was recently clued in to the grave issue of labor justice when the late Zaha Hadid said she had “nothing to do” with the hundreds of migrant workers who died on the construction sites of World Cup facilities in Qatar. Many were outraged. Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca, a senior justice adviser at GFF with expertise in disrupting contemporary slavery and a Robina Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, said the initial activism that stemmed from controversial megaprojects in the Gulf States shed light on a broader problem in the industry.

“For many in the human rights community, Hadid’s tone-deaf response to the plight of those workers laboring on World Cup projects not only symbolizes the profession’s abdication of responsibility,” C.deBaca said, “but is proof of an ivory-tower nihilism that undercuts architecture’s claim to leadership in designing for community as opposed to wealth.”

C.deBaca is part of an expanding working group of high-profile construction and design professionals, scholars, human rights experts, and industry association leaders gathered by Sharon Prince, GFF president and cofounder, and AN editor-in-chief Bill Menking. To address exploitation in building supply chains, the two brought together many of the principals of the firms that designed and built Grace Farms to educate the industry and develop better practices. They aim to create a LEED-like score sheet to evaluate forced labor’s role in buildings and products, as well as guidelines on how to infuse antislavery language into design briefs, competition rules, contracts, and more.

“It is time to recognize our responsibility,” Prince said, “and subsidizing construction projects with forced labor on job sites is only half of the slavery issue. Illuminating forced labor in building material supply chains, that design teams specify, has not yet begun. We must turn our attention to the built environment and eradicate modern slavery’s permanent imprint.”

To do this, the team is promoting total transparency from the ground up (and even from below the ground; 4 percent of forced labor occurs in the global mining industry, per the International Labour Organization). Brad Guy, former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group, recently joined GFF’s initiative. He’s also a member of the AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group and is developing a pledge that will try to channel interest in the environmental and social impact of building materials. This includes spreading the word on the “dirty dozen”: bricks, copper, electronics, fiber and textiles, glass, granite, gravel, iron, minerals, precursor chemicals, tin, rubber, steel, and stone. He said these often-specified materials are at risk of being sourced unethically on job sites around the world.

“I’m pretty sure that most people would not consciously choose to purchase these building products if they were the product of forced or child labor,” Guy said. “The core of an architect’s standard of care is the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and the point of incorporating human rights as a fundamental criterion in the production of buildings and materials is for that reason.”

According to Nat Oppenheimer, executive vice president of structural engineering firm Silman, highlighting a tight list of materials can help clarify how much easier it has become to track their origins. “It can change the frame for the design community, hopefully motivating others to ask about other materials and start doing their own research, which in turn may spur further innovation on tracking technology and the creation of new clean versions,” Oppenheimer said.

Though the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group, as it’s officially called, has been active for only a year, its efforts are moving forward quickly thanks to the diligence of its members and, in part, because there is already substantial awareness out there. “We’re seeing increasing government regulation around the world, whether in specific modern slavery legislation, such as in Australia and the United Kingdom, or in broader business and human rights initiatives coming out of the European Union and the United Nations,” said C.deBaca, who led the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during the Obama Administration. “Anyone doing projects overseas or who has multiple offices, or even who sources materials from outside of the U.S., needs to know about this problem.”

So the team is busy spreading the news. Oppenheimer and C.deBaca will present their work at the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Congress in New York this September, while Deborah Berke, also a member of the working group, is planning a spring series of discussions on the topic at the Yale School of Architecture. Hayes Slade, 2019 president of AIA NY, and Benjamin Prosky, AIA NY executive director, will host a meeting to discuss existing antislavery laws and the more than 45 ethical product and materials certifications or reporting mechanisms that can be applied in the U.S. alone.

“As architects, it’s impossible to look at our work from the products selected to the job site to the completed project and not think about how it all came together,” said Slade. “We are also at a point where information is more readily available and so our expectations and aspirations for transparency are increasing.”

It’s an achievable goal, Prince believes, to get more people on board and boost consciousness of the issue in a short amount of time. She says it will take a serious communication and organization strategy, and that’s why the more experts involved, the better.

“This is an opportunity for industry leaders to use their design and construction wherewithal for significant humanitarian effect through the material procurement and specification process,” Prince said. “And we want to find new projects to test this on. Perhaps Amazon’s new HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia, is a good place to start since they have distinctly made a commitment to responsible sourcing and developed one of the most sophisticated data platforms that could be tuned to illuminate and audit the building material supply chain. We’re looking for that kind of dedication.”

Sydney Franklin is a member of the GFF Architecture + Construction Working Group, of which AN’s editor-in-chief William Menking is a cofounder. Read more about the group's efforts to end modern slavery in architecture here

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Gulf Labor Coalition calls for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi boycott

Although the news that the Abu Dhabi offshoot of the Guggenheim was alive and well only broke a couple of weeks ago, labor activists are proactively calling for an artists’ boycott until the Guggenheim Foundation addresses their concerns over working conditions in the Gulf state. The Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC), a collective of artists and labor activists, has been agitating for more equitable conditions for migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates since 2010. The group has sparred with the Guggenheim Foundation over its Abu Dhabi location several times, precipitating an occupation of the Guggenheim Museum on May Day in 2015 and the projection of shaming messages onto the building’s spiral in 2016. The GLC brought the Guggenheim Foundation to the negotiating table in 2015, but the foundation's Board of Trustees announced in April of 2016 that it would be walking away from any further discussions with the GLC, citing the group’s “shifting goals.” With progress on the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi slowed, or even stopped, the furor temporarily died down. Now that the project is actively moving forward again, the GLC has released an open letter to the Guggenheim, and any artists who would work with the museum. “We were inspired by the struggle for worker rights taking place by students and faculty around the construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus and asked ourselves what we as art practitioners could do to address potential labor abuses for the Guggenheim Museum’s planned Abu Dhabi branch. “What we asked was, in our eyes, quite modest. Before we agree to participate or include our works in such a collection, can you please ensure that workers are not abused and are paid fairly, that they are not indebted by recruitment fees, that they are given decent housing and living conditions, and that they have the right to address grievances or abuses individually or collectively? We also asked for an independent external monitor to be in place so that we have at least a modicum of objectivity in assuring these conditions are met. Only the last of these requests was met, and not in a satisfactory way.” The full statement can be read here. When pressed for comment, Guggenheim officials only told Hyperallergic the following: “Recent coverage of an updated timeline for the construction and opening of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was erroneous and was corrected by multiple media outlets several days ago. There is no construction on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, no contractor has been selected, and no timeline has been set.” It's unclear what exactly the Guggenheim officials are referring to. Their statement said that construction work was not ongoing, but the earlier Euronews interview with Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, did not say that construction was already happening, but that it would be starting "soon." While that article originally claimed a 2022 opening date, that was quickly amended. The officials did not apparently correct Armstrong's assertion that the Guggenheim Foundation is still actively pursuing the Abu Dhabi project.
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Nashville is the South's most dangerous city for construction workers

Nashville is the most dangerous city in the South for construction workers, according to The Guardian. A study released last year found that basic safety precautions on job sites in the Music City were being overlooked due to a top-down culture of fear and abuse. That toxic environment led to 16 accidental deaths in the industry from 2016 to 2017, per OSHA records. As one of the region’s fastest growing cities, over $13 billion has been poured into new construction over the last few years, and workplace safety is of top concern for Tennessee unions. The Guardian noted that half of those who died during that fateful two-year period were Latinos, a population that’s grown two-fold in the last 10 years, as high demand for construction workers has drawn migrant laborers to the area. Safety advocates say that low wages—just $14 per hour—and widespread abuse have contributed to these unsafe labor conditions on job sites across the city. There’s a palpable fear amongst workers that they can be easily replaced, so they continue to cooperate despite the dangerous work. Eleven of the 16 workers who died in the last two years weren’t wearing a safety harness and fell from their postings. Though it’s going to take a lot of effort to upgrade labor laws in a city with this much development, one piece of recent news has people hopeful. Two weeks ago, Nashville’s Major League Soccer team ownership signed a deal with Stand Up Nashville, a construction union-advocacy organization, to improve working conditions at the new 27,500-seat stadium designed by Populous. The community benefits agreement will raise the minimum wage for all workers to $15.50 and consider the importance of awarding contracts to companies with strong workplace safety records. It will also include provisions for the build-out of nearby affordable housing. 
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How architects should reconsider the way they work

When you next see someone using a mobile phone—in the street or in a country lane, on a bus or a plane—go up to this person and ask, ‘Where are you going?’… and if the reply is ‘I’m going to my office,’ on no account say, ‘But you are already in your office.’

—David Greene, Archigram, 1999

Here, Archigram’s David Greene concludes a polemical argument for a 21st-century architecture liberated from market capitalism by its technologically enabled transience. For Greene, the then-still-not-ubiquitous—nor smart—mobile phone held the potential to untether global financiers from a fixed place of work materialized in architecture.

Almost 20 years later, rereading this fable, we find its uncanny prescience accurately describes our current condition. A combination of economic pressures and accelerated technologies has transformed virtually every inch of the planet, public and private, into an office. We never leave the office. Every profession has been subjected to the tether of the phone, and those, such as architecture—already defined by its culture of late nights and long hours—ever more so. It is a culture into which generations of architects have been initiated in school. Yet until recently, it has been little questioned. Students are expected to arrive to final reviews with the minimum possible sleep. Recent grads flock to offices that offer the benefits of “free dinner” and paid taxi rides home when the workday extends to benchmark hours late into the evening and night. As ethical imperatives have entered into architectural practices (piggybacking on environmental considerations), exploitation, environmental and human, and physical and immaterial labor become issues we can no longer ignore.

Peggy Deamer’s The Architect as Worker asks us to address these concerns, to unflinchingly consider the way we work, concomitant with the systems of labor that we enable. Following on the heels of two other edited volumes she published on the economic and social structures that define the profession, this 250-page book with 17 contributors is a denser and more polemical exploration of the protocols and practices that structure the labor of architectural design and construction. Deamer has organized the texts into five sections that consider the relation of architecture and labor in theory and in practice. The perspectives traverse the broader issues of defining immaterial labor to discipline-specific speculations that suggest new models for the profession. Fittingly, the essays begin with the implication for the university and end with practice. Some of the essays are more philosophical (Franco Berardi), others historical (Richard Biernacki, Andreas Rumpfhuber), or contemporary and pragmatic (Deamer, Neil Leach, and Phillip Bernstein). Though the sections do not specifically seek to respond to each other, the connections and resonances that emerge between essays are some of the more satisfying moments in the book.

Whereas Berardi’s contribution brings our consciousness to the exploitation labor of the academic, Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk of Metahaven do so through a drift through various observations on design culture and its attendant value-added design surfaces as commodity objects and their relation on politics and society.

Far from a rant about low pay and long hours (not that these conditions aren’t substantiated as a genuine problem) or a what-if exposé on the “submission of knowledge to economics,” the essays collectively look at the larger shift in how work has changed in a post-Fordist economy. The tone remains positive as some of the essays pose alternatives (solutions) to the current conditions, while others explore the underlying structures of the discipline in an enlightening and shocking depth (Pier Vittorio Aureli, Mabel Wilson, Jordan Carver, Kadambari Baxi), revealing the global network of actors involved in even the smallest of projects. We are left with the uncertain awareness that the information age is also a knowledge economy—and therefore a commodity, like any other.

Some essays manage to do both, such as Leach’s The (ac)Cred(itation) Card, which offers a rethinking of educational models to address the ironic disconnect between accreditations boards’ ever-tightening grip on disciplinary educational and licensing criteria while the professional as such is increasingly marginalized in the building industry and the minimum basic educational standards are increasingly irrelevant or insufficient for students. As well, Deamer’s own essay is both a broad survey of the history of artisanal work and an exploration of the transformation of architectural work by the knowledge economy. For Deamer, the shifting of the architect from object designer to project designer offers an opportunity to change the compensation structure for firms and individuals.

Rather than devolving into a solipsistic rumination, the essays collectively ask us to shift not the way we work, but how we conceptualize our contribution and place in the global economy. The book provides a mounting argument against architecture as a “calling” (page 61), revealing the exploitation we have been subjected to as well as that which we have indirectly subjected others to. Given the density of the text and imagistic duotone cover photo, one wonders if the book’s primary audience—those who are likely to recognize the image as Hans Hollein’s mobile office from 1973 (complete with landline)—are already are familiar with and sympathetic to the issues it raises. Yet, as a volume that asks the questions of a discipline regarding the work we do and equally the work that our work fosters, it belongs on every architect’s bookshelf.

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(Re)Working Architecture at the AIA Convention 2016

The AIA national convention this week in Philadelphia has a full line up of events and off-site parties. But after sitting through Rem Koolhass and Julie Dreyfus you might check out (Re)Working Architecture (May 20, 6:30pm) at the city’s most impressive cultural space, the Slought Foundation. This conversation about architecture’s lack of labor consciousness and place in activism should be of great interest to younger architects just starting out in the profession. The conversation by Daniel Barber, Barrie Cline, and Damon Rich will join members of the Architecture Lobby—Peggy Deamer, Keefer Dunn, and Quilian Riano—to discuss architectural protest, labor, and relevance. It will be preceded by a new video (Re)Working Architecture, which documents a performance event organized by the Architecture Lobby with scenes, real and absurd, of architectural practice. The event takes place at Slought on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 6:30-8:00pm. Slought is located across the street from the University of Pennsylvania at 4017 Walnut Street.
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Eavesdrop> Your Work is Worth the Price of Admission (and so Much More)

Major museums are really expensive these days, and boy do we like to complain about it (actually we get into most museums for free with a press pass, but we still love to complain about it)! Well gather ‘round dear readers, because we’ve got a bit of nice news for once. The new Renzo Piano–designed Whitney Museum is offering free admission for a year to all the men and women who are building their new Meatpacking location. It’s a nice counter to all the bad news about labor conditions at major cultural and educational institutions in the Middle East (we’re looking at you, NYU).