For a Sustainable Socialist Architecture
This paper was delivered as part of the 'ReciprociUdad' symposium in Seville 2020, which is part of the international seminars series 'Design Diplomacy'. The crisis of housing affordability in the UK is at its most severe in the capital, London, but its effects are the result of global forces whose financial roots reach deep into the world economy. These include the marketisation, privatisation and financialisation of housing provision; the neo-liberalisation of the processes of property development; and the writing of legislation and policy designed to accommodate and promote the financial interests of investors and developers above the housing needs of resident populations. We have all experienced something of the effects of this crisis, which has resulted in the systemic destruction of urban and largely working-class communities and cultures for short-term financial gain and at the cost of increasing social and economic inequality and environmental degradation. It is within this global context that the challenge of sustainable cities — or, more accurately, the question of how we can develop sustainably — has become one of the most urgent issues of our time, in which architects and built-environment professionals have the opportunity and duty to take a decisive role. The relatively recent rise in public awareness about the need for environmental sustainability is overdue and welcome; however, sustainable development that meets social need must go beyond the simplistic notions of the environment that characterise so-called ’green architecture’. If it is to be truly sustainable, architecture must not only contribute to countering the negative effects of development on the environment, but it must, in addition, be socially beneficial and economically viable for its users and inhabitants, and therefore, also, politically progressive. To be sustainable, in other words, architecture must be socialist. This paper outlines the opposing cycles of capitalist and socialist economy within housing development in the UK, illustrates the intersections of the social, economic, environmental and political contexts operating within the current housing situation, and demonstrates the ways in which the work of Architects for Social Housing has addressed these issues in a range of design alternatives to demolition of council housing in the UK, concluding that the only way to achieve genuinely sustainable development is through process of sustainable socialist architecture.
Research Institute : Institute of Architecture
Peer Reviewed : Yes