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DESIGN DIPLOMACY: PUBLIC POLICY AND THE PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE


af Richard Nelson Swett, august 00

Thomas Jefferson, a man possessing the training and sensitivities of an architect, played an important role in designing what was to become the blueprint of the American democracy. In doing so, he effectively realized the confluence of the arts, democratic politics and morality. In a letter to James Madison penned in 1785 he wrote, "You see, I am enthusiastic on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile them to the rest of the world, and to procure them praise." 

Over the course of the next two hundred fourteen years only thirteen architects have served in the United States Congress--a fact that helps explain the lack of political clout in the design professions and the lack of vision in governmental institutions. The tradition of architectural influences on public policy, although possessing an impressive beginning, has never been very strong. The absence of design sensibilities has caused numerous problems in the U.S. culture from a lack of appreciation for quality of life issues to a less cooperative approach to problem solving in the public sector.

Denmark, a much smaller and older country, has had a longstanding tradition of commitment to public architecture. One of the most prolific monarchs to impact the built environment was King Christian IV. But good design in Denmark goes deeper than just the public buildings. It permeates the whole of society. The role the architecture profession has played in forming the highly designed culture of Denmark is a significant one, as there exists here a higher percentage of professional architects in the working population than in any other country in the world. Good design is evident in everything from buildings to bottle openers.

In a world today that is filled with adversarial conflict between political parties, special interest groups and the like, it is interesting to note that architects remain one of the few professions that are still held in high regard. Yet, the profession is losing market share and has never really participated in the public policy debate in a way that could be both beneficial to the profession and the public at the same time.

This September, in Copenhagen, a conference is being convened that will explore the relationships that architecture has with leadership and public policy. Although the United States and Denmark will provide the majority of examples for discussion, this is truly an international event that will attract both speakers and attendees from all over the world. Seminar sessions will include:

  • Historical accounts of architects who have influenced public policy,
  • The theoretical concepts that explain why architects could and should be leaders,
  • First hand experiences of architects who have influenced or are making public policy,
  • The thoughts of government officials who work with architects, and
  • How architects can become more influential in the future?

Luminaries such as Richard Rogers, members of President Clinton's Cabinet, ministers of Culture and Cities and Housing from Denmark, presidents of American, Danish and International Architecture institutes, and other prominent architects will make the presentations for the seminars.

Whatever the connection and impact that the profession has had on society, it is clear that few studies have documented that impact in a way that relates it to the future of the profession. Buildings have been designed and built, but beyond that what is the legacy of leadership that the architect has left for society? This conference is a seminal event that initiates this important discussion.

From King Christian IV of Denmark to architect Thomas Jefferson in the young American Republic, architecture has had its strong sponsors and practitioners in high places. It has not only had important champions within the governments at different times in history; it has influenced how public policy has been designed. In an age where little cooperation exists between political parties and special interest groups, there could be a lot to learn from the example the profession of architecture could offer. 

Richard Nelson Swett er USAs ambassadør i Danmark, arkitekt og medlem af AIA

Design Diplomacy Conference finder sted i København fra d. 6.-9.9.  

  • Hele konferencen, inkl. gallamiddag den 9. september 3.500 kr. inkl. moms
  • Per dag ( 7. eller 8. september) 1.350 kr. inkl moms
  • Deltagelse 9. september inkl. gallamiddag 2.100 kr. inkl. moms
  • Gallamiddag gæster 750 kr. inkl. moms

Programmet for konferencen kan downloades eller læses på AIA´s website

Tilmelding til konferencen kan finde sted hos Tri-Partners eller hos den amerikanske Arkitektforening AIA




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OPDATERET D.07-04-2003



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OPDATERET D.07-04-2003