Architecture: We Have the Power

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While we aren't quite through the first decade of the 21st century, The LA Times is running an Arts & Entertainment series tagged 'Notes on the Decade.' Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne checks in with, “Architecture: Star architects emerge, but even they find limits,” a commentary on the status of early 21st century architecture.

The article hits most of the highlights of the last nine years: the advancement of BIM design and modeling technology; the effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks; the building boom in China; and the momentum of the green building agenda. Hawthorne also singles out a few worthy contributions to our built environment, most notably the CCTV Tower in Beijing, China, a top contender in The Huffington Post's Best Buildings of the Decade poll.  But what resonates most for me is the final thought on the influence of architects and the power of architecture.

Hawthorne postulates that despite the increased publicity for exemplary innovations in architectural design and building technology, architects still have little power to influence changes in civilization typically dealt with in the political arena. While maintaining a sense of hope, he implies that several factors work to shatter the illusion of influence. Since architects rarely pay for the projects they design, clients exert enormous influence over the impact of architecture. Governmental regulations, politics, and misguided NIMBY zoning laws also work to stifle dynamic architects and architecture.

Call me an idealist, but I am in the camp with those that believe in the power of architecture to transform culture through human interaction with buildings, spaces, and the larger built environment. The green building movement is the single best concept we architects have to sell the ideas and theories we first studied in school. And the clients are buying it - because smart design means smart savings for structures the inhabitants will sustain.

We certainly have a lot of work to do, but I believe we HAVE the power. Architects, engineers and planners embody the leadership to advance and transform cultural changes through inspirational design, new building technologies and intelligent master planning.


Architecture for Humanity is one of those organizations working to forward the advancement of civilization through the power of architecture.


What are your thoughts about the power of architecture?

Can a building change the world?

Or does architecture merely respond to public whim and political direction?

Share your thoughts on projects that have changed your community.

Ryan Carpico

Ryan is a Registered Architect who earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kentucky in 1998. His experience in a broad spectrum of architectural projects includes design and project management in multi-family residential, general commercial, and institutional projects. This architectural experience is balanced with a background in general contracting of residential and light commercial construction projects. Ryan’s knowledge and ability as both architect and builder enable him to address both the technical and practical sides of the comprehensive body of construction knowledge.

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