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Working Together: identifying goals, adopting strategies without loosing sight of the big issues

Subject: Architects for Peace: working together, identifying goals, adopting strategies without loosing sight of the big issues

The last two years have provided a good test to the “sustainability” of Architects for Peace beyond the break of war. I often wondered whether there was or should be a role for AFP beyond the first year, as its origins were specifically around the issue of Australian committing to war.

It is clear that wars don’t just come up without a reason. The thought that “peace is more than the absence of war” should prompt us to ask ourselves about what should be done to create peace. War on Iraq - the catalyst for our organisation - has not ended. But more importantly, we have not unraveled the issues that produced it - still, this most recent war is out of most people’s minds.

It is no coincidence that war was waged by countries with the highest greenhouse emissions in the world, Australia and the US. AFP had no doubts that addressing issues of energy consumption in all its forms is one of the key aspects to resolve the environmental problems we are facing and to end the bellicose stance towards other countries. We may also learn more about ourselves in the process.

In this regard the question is how can we be most effective in addressing these issues? Our response is, by working together, by identifying goals, adopting strategies and by not loosing sight of the issues – not a small task by any means.

In relation to working together, the article entitled “is this any way to build a city"[1] (The Age, April 22, 2005), is perhaps the best example that demonstrates how we don’t work together. A responsible professional way towards building a city should have its social and environmental agendas at the forefront, with an economic agenda supporting it. My response to this article is, no, this is not way to build a city. Bob Birrell, basing his comments on Kevin O’Connor’s findings (“2030 rail planning attacked”[2] The Age, March 22, 2005) provides another example of an unfortunate reactive and superficial response to the city. According to them, the “housing market and the economy” have been misread, arguing that there is no future for the Melbourne 2030’s fixed rail and that “it would be a sad waste of money”.

Reading the symptoms, by enquiring into the housing market and partially enquiring into the economy, is a starting point. Assessing and re-dressing the causes for the high environmental costs of our city, is obviously beyond O’Connors and Birrell’s capacity. Of course we would not be surprised if the housing industry insisted in maintaining the status quo, but that Birrell and O’Connor believe the “housing market” to be the blueprint for the city’s future is beyond comprehension. Stating the obvious, “people preferred detached houses and cars”, is a sluggish response to the very crucial question which requires a long term responsible comittment to the future - what should we do to better the city for it to be responsive to the needs of its citizens without impossing misery in the rest of the world?

A city cannot be built on professional distrust, corporations greed, elitism, heroes’ arrogance, intellectual laziness and misinformation – this is “no way to build a sustainable city” and to achieve peace. Personally I found these articles distasteful and regretably, this is how our cities become responsible for the highest greenhouse emissions and for the disregard of the wellbeing of others.

Back to our work, Architects for Peace has identified the goals and implemented some ways in which we can be effective, these include working together and learning from relevant disciplines at all levels. We are far yet from achieving any of our goals in terms our own methodology, but we are working on it.

At this stage, our main task is to consolidate ourselves as an organisation that does and will challenge current deficient practices among our own. AFP believes that a more diverse approach to the city should be expressed by a larger number of players determining its direction and shape. We know what happens when it is left to a few developers and the high ranking design industries - we have yet to explore a more humane and responsible way to building the city, which questions the validity of existing attitudes. Unfortunately, beyond some short term satisfactions brought by small achievements, we see no long term goal towards a sustainable city.

AFP has tried to have presence in relevant forums and conferences, officially opening up the discussion with intentCITY. This is still not enough and it won’t be until we all take part as committed members.

Internationally we have had some successes, we are in the process of becoming members of Architects for Peace International and ADPSR (architects, designers and planners for social responsibility). Nationally, we struggle to even have a link placed in relevant websites (no luck yet with the RAIA) or to obtain financial support for the publication of the intentCITY proceedings - which is by the way looking terrific. In this regard, we should also acknowledge the support from the planning institute (PIA), who has published our articles and promoted our activities.

The core team of Architects for Peace is small and we need more people from all our represented professions. This is a good time to form alliances, to discuss and network, we hope you can all assist.

Beatriz C. Maturana

[1] Miller, Royce. Is this any way to build a city?. The Age, April 22, 2005.
[2] Boulton M. and Millar R. 2030 rail planning attacked. The Age, March 22, 2005.


elizabeth said...

I'm curious as to your comment: "Nationally, we struggle to even have a link placed in relevant websites (no luck yet with the RAIA) "

Could you please explain why the RAIA may have or are taking this position?

Beatriz Maturana said...

Elizabeth, I share your curiosity - no idea is the answer. As I haven't received a response to my numerous requests for a link, I can only have a guess as to the reasons and I would prefer not to do that.

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