Hagens, Sylvie. Contributing to a new imagination [koozarch]

Palliative Architecture – The Architect as an urban clown doctor


« Today we are more than ever living in a health driven society, it seems like health has become the norm of everything. We are all expected to act in a certain way and be in a certain shape to obtain to this health norm. The faith in medication has never been greater. It seems like we are in a constant curative state of mind, especially in the urban context the human body seems to be at constant risk even within the urban context this medicalization is presents. Parks are referred to as green ‘longs’, problem areas as city ‘cancers’. The medicalization has become justification, medical terms are used to frame non-medical problems. When we use a medical term to address a problem it seems like there is no discussion possible, everybody is convinced that what is said is true. It is the perfect way to avoid a real debate, it is non refutable. History has shown that it is not correct to put architecture in a curative role, since architecture did not provide real answers within the health debate whatsoever. Nowadays architecture is often reduced to a service industry and becomes purely a symptom treatment. Urban investments are reduced to building large-scale projects that will cure the city of its ‘disease’ by offering a programmatic complexity. Rather than pretending that architecture has a healing, curative role I state that architecture, especially within the studio ‘Health as an Urban Common’, is in all means palliative, in most it has a placebo effect. We have to work with the conditions that we have instead of still trying to fight the aftermath of the nowadays consumption driven economy. I do not consider architecture as a static object but rather as an active instrument, as a tool to trigger human behaviour. Architecture rarely provides one comprehensive answer to a problem but ideally contributes to a larger critical thinking, to unlock the potential of a space. Palliative means that architecture is what it is, it is the structure of how we inhabitant the city, however it is not improving the actual health in the city, it is not fixing social problems, it can merely prolong our death. Architecture is not conclusive, it is not a certainty and it is not science. Health is science. Architecture provides wonderful possibilities for change, especially in city parts that are in crisis; it becomes an opportunity rather than an absolute answer. Architects need to take this responsibility seriously, become more critical and stop pretending to be urban doctors, as we are in fact clown doctors who take upon a palliative instead of curative function […]

Contributing To a New Imagination | Sylvie Hagens

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