At the symposium Colm Toibin launched a confronting but stimulating attack on the uncritical complicity of architects in the milieu in which they operate; he associated Speer 's complicity in the Nazi regime with current architectures complicity in the current unbridled march of capital (which he counterpoised, controversially, with culture).In important respects he is correct. He agreed to participate in this web discussion over the next ten days at my suggestion: I therefore now wish to advance the discussion at once:To do so I make a few points and ask a few questions:
While we were in the symposium yesterday we lost circa 32 species to extinction, forever.
I am told that it takes ten thousand years at any locus (eg Maui where I have just been) for a new species to occur.The GEO 2000 report (Earthscan,1999) prepared by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) through hundreds of universites and research institutes worldwide, spells out in plain language and diagrams the grim impact we are having on all species including our own. At an unprecedented rate we are assymptotically approaching a single species planet: ie endgame. I am astounded by the ongoing complicity of the mainstream of architects in this process: building uses one sixth of potable water: one quarter of timber and nearly half of all fossil fuels consumed in the world: (ECO TECH, Princeton 1999). Architects have a duty of care to monitor and interrogate this process and lead society away from this dangerous current norm. Leadership , from the UN community, Al Gore, the EU Commission 'gets it', but the mammoths and minnions of global capital have too much vested interest to acknowledge this or change to available sustainable options.The new politics referred to by Saskia Sassen is called for with significant inputs from Architects, such as Bill McDonough a UCD graduate and Head of School at Charlottesville Virginia to the US Presidents Commission on Sustainabaility. In Ireland also much valuable work has been done with influence elsewhere, through ERG etc.
The specificity of Dublins present growth (to accept Ole Boumans point at the end), is grossly and residually unsustainable.
Colm Toibin is a fine and justly celeberated writer: I have read and admired his work: I believe he should be in our Senate. His contributions yesterday were important and justified his invitation by the organisers.(Who deserve our thanks in this and other respects). As was repeatedly made clear however yesterday Architecture and Literature are very different arts: the architect who does not 'build' has the same freedom as the writer: architects who 'build' are midwifes of a process where they neither conceived nor bear the outcome: clients conceive and builder/ developers build: Shelley and Dave gave an instructive and honest account of one example. I would invite Colm Toibin to comment, with some empathy, on the media which are available to architects in Dublin now.
The neo rationalism of Dublins architecture of the last few decades coupled with gross and unthought, unfelt, major buildings and proposals raise some very serious questions for architects here at a time of boom. Is urban acupuncture, as Dominick Stevens wittily calls it enough?: are we as a profession complicit and 'making hay while the sun shines'?.
Finally to take up Ole Boumans excellent end -note remarks in his question to me among those to the presenters; I would answer, as an engineer, that Genetic Engineering is yet another 'technical fix' where mankind is led to believe, through Montsanto and the like that we are 'masters of the universe': we are not. Heideggers sense of 'debased techne' and the experience of the outcomes of the technological experience since circa 1900 would challenge this view. (See GEO 2000 report). The unintended affect and effect of such abominations of nature in GM as transgenic mutation are the real hazards of GM. Would you cross a cat with a dog? The precautionary principle of Sustainability theory must be applied responsibly: all GM is not bad including current work: wheat is a genetically modified grass over a time line since the hunter gatherer: Some current GM however is generically different as it is intervening empirically in a gross and sudden manner with something so far not a mature technology according to rigorous Science; the results are being released into the general ecosystem without powers of recall. Many believe that the nuclear industry lessons are being ignored.
As an engineer, I am not, of course, anti technology: sustainable technology can help humankind to safety from the present grave hazards to our survival, addressing social, environmental and economic issues in that order.
I hope architects and others at the symposium will now take up the debate on these, and other, points.