These are interesting times. There is in the English language a curse, purported to have been translated from the Chinese, but most likely of British origin: “May you live in interesting times.” The meaning, of course, is that it is better to live in uninteresting times of peace and stability than to experience the curse of living in “interesting” times of conflict and flux. Such a fate would only be wished on one’s enemies. So, yes, it might indeed seem that we have had the misfortune to live in very interesting times. We are confronted with multiple, intertwined crises of great complexity: climate change, political instability, mass migrations, hunger, and social polarization, just to name a few.
There are no easy solutions to these complex problems, but there are many energetic, talented, and intelligent people trying to address them, from a range of academic backgrounds. Architects, however, have largely been excluded from the conversation, or have, in fact, chosen to exclude themselves. The general public cannot be expected to turn to architects for solutions to today’s complex problems if we, ourselves, do not insert ourselves into the conversation. Following the examples of heroic figures in architecture, both past and present, we often understand the legitimate path of the architect to be a narrow one, limited to the built environment. After all, one might reason, that is what we’ve been trained to do. Isn’t it?