WBYA? 1.0: Who Builds Your Architecture?

With architects building globally – often disconnected from their own cultural and political contexts – what is their responsibility toward the workers who construct their buildings? Frequently designed by star architects from far away, dazzling towers, university campuses, museums, and office complexes are rising in the United Arab Emirates, the Near and the Far East, but where do the workers who build them come from? Where do they live, and what is their legal status? This panel probes whether the architect’s “uninhibited creative expression” is dependent on cheap labor performed by seasonal laborers, and what the ethical possibilities of new technologies might be that are transforming design and engineering but also reduce manual labor-intensive construction methods.

Who Builds Your Architecture? examines the links between construction practices and workers’ rights, and provokes broader questions about contemporary forms of globalization where architecture takes central stage. Panelists reflect on how architects imagine their role, particularly on how their buildings may transform society not just through their physical forms but through the ways in which they are constructed and used.

Who Builds Your Architecture? emerges in part from two recent petitions: Who’s Building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi? and Who’s Building the Global U? by New York University faculty and students. Both initiatives have been organized by artists, scholars, and activists and have garnered little engagement from the architectural community. This panel discussion aims to counter that.

WBYA? panel at the Vera List Center
May 3, 2012
New York, New York
WBYA? 1.0: Who Builds Your Architecture?

Moderator:

Reinhold Martin (Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University)

Participants:

Peggy Deamer (Principal, Deamer Studios, and Professor, School of Architecture, Yale University)
Fred Levrat (Principal, ARX New York)
Andrew Ross (Professor, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University)
Bill Van Esveld (Senior Researcher in the Middle East & North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch)