image caption: Political floorplan of Tomteboda, old Swedish Post depot, Stockholm Sweden. Exhibition on 2016.
“[T]here is no such thing as obedience in political and moral matters…..Hence the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders never should be, “Why did you obey?” but “Why did you support?” …Much would be gained if we could eliminate this pernicious word “obedience” from our vocabulary of moral and political thought.” Hannah Arendt, 1964
Through artistic research, I am questioning what are the social responsibilities of architects and how much we set free our moral, ethics or ideology in order to perform the career.
During fascism regime in Italy, architecture played a crucial role in forming the identity of the country. The architecture was a political tool used as mass propaganda to diffuse the philosophy of the regime and empower the dictator Benito Mussolini. Whereas buildings were an important engine for the approval and advance of Mussolini ideas, architects were never ever questioned on their responsibility on promoting the fascist regime. Actually, the opposite, modernism or called it fascist architecture in Italy is a notorious acclaimed period of clean and pure form in architecture history. Can architects discuss that fascist heritage beyond the pure beauty of it forms?
Reflecting on the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt presented the concept of the banality of the evil and posed the question where are the personal responsibility under authoritarian regimes. She simply asks “what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act “irresponsibly” and refuse support?” Then I ask: Can architects take social responsibility on their design and reflect the ethics and political ideology behind forms?
Being architecture a social practice the work of architects during fascism regime should be considered a war crime. What if architects would face a trial for their good but harmful design?
Architecture is more than material form, therefore, it shouldn’t ignore who owns the building, who uses it, for what purpose, who finance it and the money flow around the building. Those hidden facts are as much important for the practice of architecture than the visible shape or choice of materials.