An Inconvenient Truth of Architecture

Does the responsibility of an architect stop at designing and not its construction?

The is the controversy sparked off by architect Zaha Hadid’s defense that it wasn’t her “duty” to look into the deaths of immigrant workers during construction work in Qatar as part of the World Cup 2022. One of the most prominent projects being built for the event is Hadid’s al-Wakrah stadium.

PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images

Like the workers who died, the London-based Hadid is an immigrant who made use of globalized networks to find work for the Qatari government. The mobility of labour today has made the building of cities into multinational projects which are often designed and constructed by foreigners and even cater to them rather than citizens. That architects like Hadid are rewarded handsomely for their concepts and designs while the people who make it into reality are often exploited and in the background points to how cities have become spectacles and brands as suggested by Shiloh Krupar and Stefan Al in their essay “Notes on the Society of the Spectacle Brand.”

The focus on architecture as an image—first as renderings and finally tourist photos—obscures architects and the public to the realities of constructing a city today. It takes an entire transient community of migrant workers to give our cities concrete permanence. Is this something architects should consider when coming up with their designs? The narrow focus of architecture as a backdrop for our lives turns the process of building into a walled-up construction site—an inconvenience waiting to be gotten rid off once it is built.

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Written for Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi’s
 Cultural Theory class at D-Crit in response to “Notes on the Society of the Spectacle Brand” by Shiloh Krupar and Stefan Al

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