Decentering the Architect

For a long time architects played a central role in the design and development of the built environment. As a symbol of power, beauty and technological advancement, architecture celebrates and reinforces a personality cult that centers around an individual creative genius. Many buildings are named after their architect, entire neighborhoods and cities are attributed to one person.

Given the complex nature of the many interwoven challenges we now face, it's impossible to uphold this privileged position. In the face of current social-economic and environmental crises, there is no clear center anymore, neither geographically, nor politically. What remains are dynamic situations and shifting networks, shaped by opposing forces, that require a careful mediation and decentralized collaboration between many actors instead of one central authority dictating a design.

Some might say: architects have already been marginalized by a developer-led system that revolves around revenue generating activities. Maybe they are right, but it would be the wrong ambition to reclaim a central role. Instead, architects can use their expertise to broaden conversations about design and urban transformation by empowering and facilitating people (and non-humans) who until now were not seen or heard. To start seeing this new constellation, is to start by decentering and repositioning the architect in order to put the shared purpose in the middle.

With the Newrope Chair we actively address the need to decenter the architect by reimagining the role of designers as urban transformation facilitators who create the right conditions for an open and polyphonic conversation through a process of design in dialogue.

Still image from Deconstructing Harry, a 1997 comedy film by Woody Allen