In Search of Activist Architects

Noting that Thomas Jefferson “believed that architecture embodied the soul of his new country,” Doug Wignall urges today’s architects to be more assertive in their social roles:

[T]he profession of architect has lost its way in mainstream consciousness. We have become less relevant, we have become more commoditized—largely because we are not inserting ourselves into public dialogue as leaders of the discussion and instruments of change. Young people want to enter a profession where they feel they can make a difference, and while architecture certainly is a vehicle to do that, we have fallen off in our determination to execute it properly…

I wonder about the concept of architect as political hero. I believe that if we don’t go forward with that idea in mind, then we will never fulfill our true potential, that our profession will languish in obscurity. As architects, we are the builders of dreams. I propose that we can and should build dreams beyond the tangible world of the built environment. We have much to contribute to the shaping of public policy that can improve the world. And I argue that there has never been a better time for us to begin.