WBYA? is a coalition of architects, activists, scholars, and educators that tackles the pressing question: who builds your architecture? to examine the links between labor, architecture and the global networks that form around building buildings. As major architectural projects unfold in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and around the globe, and as architects from the US increasingly work abroad, we explore the ethical, social and political questions that emerge under these relatively new circumstances. From workers’ rights to construction practices to design processes to new technologies WBYA? investigates the role of architecture and architects: what it is and what it could be.

We name our group in the form of a question in order to jumpstart a discussion amongst our colleagues in architecture as well as collaborators in related disciplines. For us this one question sparks many other enquiries where we need to rethink ethics, new technologies, professional practice, activism and education. Ultimately, our aim is to investigate contemporary forms of globalization where architecture takes central stage, and to address critical questions, such as:

What are the architects’ ethical responsibilities toward those who erect their buildings around the world?
Where do these construction workers come from and what does architecture demand from them?
How do new technologies transform construction methods as well as communication?
Addressing labor-intensive manual labor?
Or workers’ rights?
Or site oversight?
If low-cost labor enables architects’ uninhibited creative expression, what is the human cost?

WBYA? Team:

Kadambari Baxi (architect and professor, Barnard + Columbia Architecture)
Jordan Carver (writer and PhD student, New York University, American Studies)
Laura Diamond (architect and PhD candidate, Columbia University, GSAPP)
Tiffany Rattray (architect)
Lindsey Wikstrom (architect)
Mabel O. Wilson (architect and professor, Columbia University, GSAPP)

WBYA? Collaborators:

Beth Stryker