Tuesday22 August 2017

It's desire not ethics that's missing from architecture, says Venice chief

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Conformism is the danger, warns Paolo Baratta

It is not a lack of ethics that is missing from architecture – but a lack of desire, the president of the Venice Biennale has claimed.

Paolo Baratta said too many architects and developers are content to build merely because they have to. This attitude is having a damaging effect on quality, he argued.

Baratta was responding to a question at this week’s Venice Biennale press conference about whether architects have a moral responsibility to do good.

This year’s festival, directed by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, aims to use the experience of dozens of architects to help solve some of the problems facing the world, from migration to crime.

Aravena’s view, reported in BD yesterday, was that architects should not be driven by any moral obligation, but by a desire to test their skills in challenging environments.

Later Baratta said: “The problem now is not ethics but the lack of desire – in architecture, art, politics.

“People eat because they have to eat, build because they have to build, buy works of art because they’re fashionable.

“Where’s the desire for a different quality of architecture and art? Conformism is the danger.”

He said his aim with the biennale was to inject that passion back into the profession, and he was confident that Aravena would achieve that this year.

“The biennale is a machine of desire,” he said.



Readers' comments (21)

  • I would argue that morality takes many forms and one element is perseverance against the established norms.

    Desire is also quite a nuanced terminology. My own view is the glamorous culture of awards and competitions is far removed from the on the ground reality of what we build.

    Desire can be a catalyst. I remember visiting Mira Flores in Lima
    , which to "North Western Eyes" is a modern shopping district but to Peruvian's I spoke with it represents a desire to be modern and free from poverty or perceived backwardness.

    Personally the Architecture I love is embedded in the existing context and culture.

    Corporate or Commercial Developments often offer the promise of a brave new world while removing the far more interesting and complex reality.

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  • More tedious, navel gazing wittering.

    Since when are ethics and passion mutually exclusive?
    Only to pseuds like Aravena and Baratta, it would seem.

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  • Aileen Reid

    "It's like making love to a beautiful woman"

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  • @Aileen

    Brilliantly observed!

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  • Thus spoke a man who has never designed or built anything.

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  • He is right though isn’t he - conformism is the danger.
    Clients do not pay you for your moral/ethical judgements, unless of course yours accord with theirs.
    But your service contract should include some measure of quality and value.
    Architects will not solve problems such as migration and crime, any more than plumbers.

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  • @ Nicholas Waring

    So if a plumber pops round to fix Mr Assad’s leaking toilet (or any other despotic example), knowing full well the crimes that have been perpetrated, you don't think that the plumber should show some integrity and not provide those services?

    Or is the plumber’s “passion” for watertight pipework enough reason to for him/her to ignore any ethical considerations in assisting/legitimising the aforementioned tyrant?

    I really don’t understand why architects, let alone plumbers should attempt to evade a very serious and fundamental question.

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  • @Aussibum

    Spot on. Its too easy an excuse to say 'well that's my job'

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    @ Aileen Reid

    Hilarious - you reminded me of that sketch in the Fast Show. Must watch it again IMMEDIATELY:


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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    One thing that isn't missing from the Venice Architecture Biennale is sponsorship from Big Tobacco, which specifically targets Third World countries. This year's sponsors include Rolex and JTI (Japan Tobacco International).

    Charming, n'est-ce pas?

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