The Green New Deal will also give most architects and designers their first experience with being in a union as they are pulled into the public sector, building deep class consciousness among a new generation of professionals and forging bonds of solidarity among them—so different from the competitive ethos that currently plagues our profession—and with workers in other fields.
There’s a great opportunity here, one that stands to bring a wholesale change to our profession…We won’t be decorators of capitalism anymore; we stand to become crucial agents of the ushering in of a new era.
There’s a great opportunity here, one that stands to bring a wholesale change to our profession and the way we understand our role in society. We won’t be decorators of capitalism anymore; we stand to become crucial agents of the ushering in of a new era.
The Architecture Lobby has put forth a vision for architects’ involvement in addressing the climate crisis that addresses the promise of the Green New Deal and contrasts with the nihilistic cynicism of the high-design world. The Lobby’s principles are rooted in the opportunity to exercise their power as organized workers that the Green New Deal will give architects. As hundreds of architects and designers move from working in the private sector to working in the public sector on projects explicitly designed to improve our world, the myth of the lone architect genius will begin to dissipate, and in its place a new kind of architect will emerge—one dedicated to building not for profit, but for people. In a recent interview with Keefer Dunn, Caitlin Watson, one of the leaders of the Lobby’s Green New Deal campaign, says that designing and building for the Green New Deal would help us “move past the idea of buildings as real estate” and open up the possibility for a new era of buildings actually serving the people they are designed for, not just the handful of developers who own them.
For Watson, the project is about capitalizing on the agency that architects would gain by being organized, and thereby also “changing the way we value architecture.” The Architecture Lobby’s Green New Deal statement includes demands such as housing for all, expanding the practice to recognize architects’ agency as workers, and advocating for public infrastructure over market-driven development.
It’s an exciting proposition, and the entirety of the architecture profession stands to change. As Billy Fleming, director for the Ian L. McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and co-author of the Indivisible Guide, recently put it in an article in Places, the Green New Deal “will be realized and understood through buildings, landscapes, and other public works.” In order to rise to that challenge, architects need to organize and change the profession, and take seriously their role in designing society’s future. We don’t have to wait until the Green New Deal is enacted. We can start now, by making our profession more equitable, by organizing in our workplaces, even by having conversations with our coworkers and friends about the Green New Deal. The more organized and committed to averting climate crisis we are now, the more ready we’ll be to hit the ground running once government programs are put in place. The clock is ticking, but we’re not out of time yet.
Marianela D’Aprile is an architectural worker, writer, and educator based in Chicago. Her work addresses the intersection of politics and architecture, with a focus on Latin America, Left movements, state violence, and public spaces.