Architects Aren't Ready for an Urbanized Planet


Favela Morumbi, Sao Paulo

We talk so much about the importance of planning and architecture in the fight against global warming, yet according to Amelia Gentleman in the International Herald Tribune, the United Nations estimates that only 5 percent of the building work under way in the world's expanding cities is actually planned; in many Asian cities, 70 percent of residents are thought to be living in unplanned areas. These are usually the poorest inhabitants, who find themselves in badly built urban sprawls, with poor access to electricity, water and drainage.

The architects are also in the wrong place. "Seventy percent of architects come from the developed world but 70 percent of the work is in the developing word. There is a total mismatch," said Gaétan Siew, president of the International Union of Architects. "A lot of the architects who come into the business want to build monuments; they want to become star architects or rich planners. We have to re-educate them so they realize that they are agents of social change."

"We need to highlight that architecture is not just Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano," Siew added. "It's not just about beautiful houses. It is all about everyday people's lives."
Buildings last a long time; training architects takes years. Only a small proportion of buildings are designed to be green, and when it comes to urban planning, developers tell the planners and the politicians what to do. And that is in North America;

"We have to reboot dramatically," says Harrison Fraker, dean of the environmental design department of the University of California, Berkeley. "We cannot afford to have two billion people living lives in conditions worse than animals." ::International Herald Tribune

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