20130610

Right to Architecture: Cathleen McGuigan talk

During the Right to Architecture symposium, at the 3rd session, chaired by Arindam Dutta, Cathleen McGuigan, Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Record, gave a great presentation under the title The Role of Media in the Right to Architecture Movement. It is worth mentioning that Nasser Rabat, symposium's organizer, credited her to inspire him for this event.

Image slide from Cathleen McGuigan's presentation. Photo Credits: Dimitris Papanikolaou


She traced the rise of the Right to Architecture movement, to initiatives like that of Rural Studio. Within this context, star-architects were/ are being considered as "house-pets to the rich."In Los Angeles, more ciritics started being interested to cover public realm projects. At the same time works like that of architect Shigeru Ban are  being recognized by organizations like Aga Khan. She also mentioned the importance of Seed Awards for socially conscious design. 
McGuigan mentioned how museum exhibitions, like Smithsonian's We The People and Moma's Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, established more awareness on social projects and concerns. Besides exhibitions, she referred to the role of conferences, like the one organized by Tom Fischer in Minnesota. Other catalysts towards the (Right to Architecture) movement have been TED talks and conferences who were interested in a more social architecture. Also, documentary films, like Gary Hustwit's Urbanized (famous for Helvetica) brought public's interest in design. The internet helped too, by broadcasting initiatives like Architecture for Humanity. In practice, it has been firms like IDEO that emphasize teamwork through collaborations between designers, social scientists, and anthropologists. 
More specifically within the Architectural Record, which is 120 years old, McGuigan disassociated magazine's direction from the non-preferrable among designers "humanitarian design" term (something that few others did during the symposium) and gave emphasis to works like that of Diébédo Francis Kéré towards building for social change. She mentioned again the death of star architecture, and emphasized informal settlements and a number of firms in Winnipeg, Manitoba as interesting examples. 
McGuigan also referred to the 2008 recession and how this had affected recent graduates to be more inventive on how to position themselves within the public realm. She did not neglect to mention the low numbers of women architects being registered. At the end she referred to the role of films like My Architect that lot of people saw, and also to websites like Salon. 

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