The architectural profession has a critical role to play in the achievement of human settlements that are more equitable, more beautiful and more functional – human settlements that increase opportunities, offering people a better chance at improving their lives and livelihoods. The belief that the profession has the potential to offer both technical and social expertise towards these aims is the driving force behind my practice, research and influences all of my professional roles.
Having said that, complex, real-life problems cannot be solved within the confines of a single profession. Architecture needs to engage with other professions in creative ways. A trans-disciplinary approach is what we need, without undermining or neglecting to celebrate unique and focussed expertise. I will avoid “archi-speak” and reach out to others who may contribute to making our work more meaningful and impactful.
Everything is connected, nothing is entirely isolated. Architecture is political. Buildings, technology, design and space are political. Decision making in the built environment is political. Material selection and detailing are political. Everything we do is value-based. Nothing is neutral. How we build, where we build, how we make decisions about our cities and neighbourhoods says something about our belief systems.
Transformation is multi-dimensional. Transforming our profession is about how we teach, research and practice as well as the demographic profile of the architectural community. Every project and site level intervention has the potential to be transformational. Experimentation and innovative pilot projects are as important as policy change.
The numbers tell us that not many architects elect to be involved with our formal voluntary and regulatory structures. The numbers tell us that we are a profession disengaged and uninvolved in the real life problems of our majority citizens. The numbers therefore also tell us that we are a profession at risk of being redundant. My mission will be to help contribute to those numbers, even if in a small way. This will be my core business during the year of my term. The UIA 2014 declaration and legacy will be driving my work.
Giving recognition to those who practice architecture at every level is important to this organisation. I will celebrate those who lead in the big commercial projects as well as those who are involved in the small community projects, those who build schools, hospitals and residential projects as well as those who offer critical services to clients who want to renovate their house or “just” need a set of approved plans because they are selling their house. As a professional architect, I also recognise the importance of the technologists and all others who offer important skills to make our profession “work”.
At a social level, we also have much work to do within our profession. My term will be about building trust, encouraging engaged participation, acknowledging the heritage of the organisation and those that came before me, enlisting the involvement of new and young professionals who have never been a part of the organisation – in the process, helping remove barriers to participation – and helping change the image of the organisation to be more embracing, supportive and inclusive. Community building will be my day-to-day mission as will good governance and transparency. Constant rigour and due diligence in how we run our day-to-day administrative and financial practices will be the norm. Building up systems based on the excellent work of my predecessor and leaving a “clean” organisation for my successor is my intention. Creating a healthy work environment for the employees of the organisation as well as supporting the regions, the volunteers and our partners nationally, across the African continent and globally requires a transformed culture of practice and a transformed method of leadership. Our well-being as a profession and our own personal growth and well- being will be high on my mind.
As an academic and researcher, who ventures occasionally into practice, my term will also be about building bridges between academic institutions and our various professional organisations. Maintaining a good relationship with the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), with the South Africa Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP), and with other organisations of the built environment professions is key to my vision.
This is my transformation agenda unpacked. As the year progresses, the details will unfold. I know I have the support of existing membership, that I will have new members join, and that my agenda may be refined, translated, interpreted, adapted, critiqued, improved and that it becomes a living document that we use to work together during my term and beyond.