Professional Practice
Architecture and value
Is architecture a plaything of a value-free elite??
If it isn't, why can't it more deeply express ideals in the day-to-day landscape??
Mai Amin
Architecture and value a society ,common place expressions in day to day landscape needs social/government support with funds as well long term commitment,i know one example in my town,mr.despande a fresh post greduate landscape architect from uk ,decided to teach and settel in my town 25 years back.the public gardens designed at that time supported by local govering body has mattured for comment it is really long time of manifastation,one needs to be calm in this fast track e-global race,as well be real than vertual.
Dushyant Nathwani
Architecture and value
Architecture, as we know it now, is surely for the elite. We earn our living as architects by working for the elite. However, it does make many of us feel guilty and so we write about low-cost housing, we give presentations on housing solutions for the homeless and we attend seminars on the conditions of squatter settlements. It gives us the feeling that we are fulfilling our duty as good citizens of the society by deliberating on the issues of the have-nots.

Then we go back to our practices. And back to designing lavish mansions and posh, high-tech commercial centres for the rich and wealthy.

There is a major contradiction somewhere!
Hammad Husain
Architecture and value
To the value-free elite ANTHING could be a plaything, depending on the fashion. It's not the architecture, or even the architects fault.
We do think about the poor,"... make them the object of our pity, then of your wisdom, ultimately of our coercion..."(Lionel Thrilling, Quoted in Council Housing and Culture, Alison Ravitz, Routledge,2001)
The only way left is to step in as a Robin Hood; getting from the rich, building for the poor.
Niloofar Razavi
Architecture and value
Dear friends,

Profound questions and deep issues have been raised by Mai Amin.

I am reminded of a discussion in NASA 1976 at CEPT, Ahmedabad where the debate topic was
Is architecture an elitist profession?
I had just started my teaching career and was with my first group of students from L.S.Raheja School of Architecture. LSR debating team consisting of Masud Taj and Sayed Naqvi presented opposing views brilliantly and won the top award.
We had spent the whole night discussing the issues in the train!

The main thrust of the arguments were:

1. Yes, architecture is an elitist profession. The original meaning of Elite as the best and distinguished people was taken in a positive way. Elitist architecture was seen as a quest for excellence and therefore it was seen as a positive and progressive way of designing and building a higher and better quality of architecture. An architecture of substance.

2. No. The second line of argument was to confront the question by taking a social position. The elite was seen as a derogatory term signifying the decadence and ostentatious way of living and elitist architecture was
seen as decadent and superfluous architecture. Modern architectural movement was cited as revolutionay architecture for the people. This argument was found useful since the theme of the seminar was social relevance of architecture.

So it will be interesting to explore what we understand by elite in the present context. Are they really value-free? Is architecture a plaything?

The idea of an architecture that deeply expresses the ideals and finds reflection in day-to-day landscape is relevant. But then we need to be clear that here we mean ideals of the society in general and not elite in particular.

The day-to-day landscape will mean housing, habitat and living environment.
While other architecture would reflect other values such as spirituality, power, refinement etc.

The issue of idealistic and pragmatic architecture is the reality of our life. Architecture reflects cultural values of people and societies. So different philosophies or value-systems find expression in architecture. Each philosophical position allows an architect to find a different role in societal context.

Pragmatism and opportunism are perhaps two most prevelant positions! It would be interesting to know how many such positions exist and the different roles an architect can play in our society. Dr. Ashraf Salama has listed some of these positions in one of his earlier postings. It would be interesting to debate the issues.

with warmr regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Architecture and value
very interseting.

let me put an example of obsevetaries [jantar mantars] builet few centuries back in india. it has been pramoted by elite but not a play thing as an architectural expression.those values are deffinetly going to be approved/absorbed by new wave architects as well sponceres.
Dushyant Nathwani
Architecture and value

Hello Mai.


I think that architecture should be participated by elites, which means that architect/planner must have the following characteristics: to be well educated, trying to understand his community's values, trying to achieve a way - either by himself or through a group - to express the community's values and declare the local identity of this community.


To be professional in the technical field ( I mean personal talents/skills ) is quiet enough to be a commercial architect - if this term is right - who can make a fantastic design and have enough income, but for sure it's not enough to be what I can say community architect - again if this term is right - who can fulfill both needs of him and his community.


But I must confess that to be either a commercial or community architect, elite person must be selected for this, because it's supposed to have a personal language for the architect/planner.


I always had an opinion that the goal of architecture and urbanism (A+U) is to have a response for what the community needs, by changing those needs into a physical state through the our A+U language: spaces ( public/private), buildings (various types), landscaping (which I think as a background for presenting human activity).


So to achieve this goal, I think that elite persons should face be chosen for this, and every architect/planner who want to have a role in his community must start with educating himself at first the community's values. Also it's very important to make this clear by starting from the early from the design studio to make our faculties not only bridge to be a postgraduate to earn a lot of money, because I see this concept as the base for plaything architecture. Sure I can't deny the importance of money, but yet it must be the goal.


About the miss link between architecture and the day-to-day landscape, I think it's clear from what I said up, but also I'd like to focus on the role of the whole community and society in this which happens by the passive reaction of the community towards the conflicts which is found in it - where ever this community is - and an example of this the nouveau-riche ( new-rich ) who have no talents or cultural backgrounds, but just a lot of money that are spent on strange and ugly buildings and activities��.


Well when architects/planners can make firms - either small or big - that successfully deals with making good quality architecture that fulfill both the community needs, reflecting the local identity based on it's cultural background and in the same time fulfills the architect/planner creativity and his basic economical needs, and when the other member start to be active and play a real role in the community, I think that this'll be the right start


Related ArchNet Discussions

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  • Architecture for the Community

Wishing you all the best,

Good Luck,


Hicham Maged


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