Almost ten years ago, in my first year of architectural studies at the University of Melbourne, my design tutor Peter Ho of Phooey Architects (and television program The Renovators) asked each student in the group how they had come to study architecture. As the conversation carried around the room, one by one most students shrugged. Some liked to draw, others liked the idea of making buildings, but most, like me, spoke with zest about how they wanted to make the world a better place. When it came to my turn, Ho looked me in the eye and said, “If architects have been saying this already for such a long time, why isn’t the world a better place right here and now?”
Right here and now, five years on from graduation, I wonder how my peers feel about trying to make the world a better place; and what is their qualifier? If we can make the world a better place, how do we then give value to it? To give value, we need shared beliefs about the world. But this is a difficult task — it seems that people are more often connected by their worries and concerns than by their beliefs. These anxieties are easy to voice: it’s less of a commitment to prove what we don’t stand for or don’t want.
Keeping in mind the federal budget (announced in May) and its forecast for the year ahead, the dossier in this issue of Architecture Australia [May 2012] is dedicated to this question of value, and in particular, adding value to architecture. This is the economic paradigm: with architecture dominated by the primacy of monetary value, what other values are there to think about? To talk about value, however, is not about having a moral high ground or being an arbiter of architectural taste. Rather, one hopes, that in the choices and actions made throughout the architectural profession, something constructive and positive is added to the world. This is the base value that we can all agree on.
Published online: 25 Jul 2012
Words: Timothy Moore
Architecture Australia, May 2012