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ETHICS Powered By Docstoc
A philosophical consideration of risk and practice
    Are we born moral?
        John Gray, NYRB May 10 2007pp 2628

   Moral Minds: How nature
Designed Our Universal Sense of
       Right and Wrong,
   by Marc D. Hauser, Ecco, 2007, NY
  Humans have an inborn moral
faculty, parts of which they share
       with other animals…
   This „deep moral grammar‟
   underpins all reasoning on
   Even though based on an evolved
capability, to use Ethics consciously, they
       must be an argued position
Peter Singer Practical Ethics Cambridge
University Press 1979:
"The notion of living according to ethical
standards is tied up with the notion of
defending the way one is living, of giving a
reason for it, of justifying it.”
Davis McCaughey's corollary:
"the professional's responsibility to know is
not just intellectual; it has a moral content"
conscious principles of ethical

     application to all life forces
conscious principles of ethical

     2       Humanity: ... who argues
     ethically and is ... physically intact can
     only at the expense of pragmatic self-
     contradiction deny that the physical
     integrity of (people) should be
     protected... (Kant)
conscious principles of ethical
       3       Informed Consent: Nuremberg
       Code (Beauchamp/Walters 1978).
       Every case must be examined
       individually to find out whether
       principles from other regions can be
       transferred and are more generalisable
       (universal) than regionally held
       beliefs/customs etc. This irredeemably
       qualifies regionalism, tribalism etc
conscious principles of ethical
      4 Content: the material values of
        groups involved in an action must
        be examined. As is argued in Zimmerli W, The
          Principles of a Non-Principle Orientated Ethics, Paper,
                  What seems absurd or
          RMIT, 1989
          alternative today may be
          commonsense tomorrow: eg.
          preserving the ecological balance
          as a value for car-makers thirty
          years ago.
        Content Cont.
Codes are often abstract:

But in reality human rights are site specific and
   time specific.

John Gray, Black Mass: apocalyptic religion &
  the death of utopia, Penguin 2007 London.)
       Second Order Cybernetics adds
        Generosity as a fifth principle

  The principle of generosity proposes that our
ethical positions must maximise the opening of
 options. This fifth test for an ethical statement
   asks: does it increase choice? A lifetime of
studying systems has lead Heinz von Vorster to
argue that ethical positions necessarily open up
   options, unethical ones close them down.
 Heinz von Foerster, Bernhard Poerksen (2002). Understanding Systems. Conversations on Epistemology and
 Ethics. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. New York, Boston, Dordrecht, London Moscow
                         Professional Ethics
  -the codes, conventions and guide-lines
  that control the patterns of life adopted by
  members of a profession. McCaughey
  argues that:

  -"the fusing of three values in a profession
  gains other people's respect:
McCaughey, Davis (1988). Piecing Together a Shared Vision. 1987 Boyer Lectures. ABC Enterprises. Crows Nest, NSW
1 the value placed upon systematic
  knowledge and the intellect
  - knowing
2 the value placed upon technical
  skill and trained capacity
  - doing
3 the value placed upon putting this
  conjoint knowledge and skill to
  work in the service of others
  - helping
  Goldilocks‟ ethical analysis:
• Its too big - architecture can solve
  everything and anything
• Its too small - architecture is a private
• Its just right - architecture as the
  practice of spatial intelligence…
             To know what?
Its too big:
“Architecture is the art of human shelter”
-the widest definition - the argument has
to be that Architecture must be for all…
which is primarily (I think) a political goal,
that architects can and should assist.
Utopic pursuits of impossible goals have had dire
consequences for people: John Gray, Black Mass,
Penguin, 2007, London
           To know what?
Its too small:
If Architecture is Eisenman-like aesthetic
dexterity visible only to a cognoscenti,
- the narrowest definition -
then the esoteric detachment of the
profession becomes readily apparent:

How can such Architecture be for all?
              To know what ?
          Its just right:
The moral justification of our position as
            takes us justification of our a
architectsThe moralinexorably towards position
closer and restricted definition of
          as architects takes us inexorably
architecture, and hence towards a focus on
          towards a closer and restricted
architectural reality. As is argued in Zimmerli
          definition of architecture, and hence
          towards of a Non-Principle
W, The Principles a focus on architectural reality,
Orientated Ethics Paper RMIT 1989; there
          on spatial intelligence.
are       Ethics must be problem-orientated.
"Four Principles of a Problem Orientated
To do what? And for whom?
  Its too big: bottom up
  The principle of Universality requires of this position
  that architecture is about „Existenzminimum‟ (eg. the
  Frankfurt kitchen) - a basic access to serviced shelter
  for every living creature is a universal moral

  It‟s too big: top down

  Le Corbusier‟s CIAM coup in which architecture is put
  at the service of the state, any state…
                To help whom?
   Getting it „just right‟

   No one (Humanity), no being (All Life) can be denied
   the quality of shelter that I aspire to, or achieve

   This is a political crusade, not best pursued thro
   Happiness Science-

Inequality is the prime cause of unhappiness
    Richard Layard (2005). Happiness: Lessons for a new science,Penguin,London
             To help how?
Politics must seek what architecture cannot seek:
Borderless service; borderless provision,
(an end to the apartheids that structure the world
The principle of Informed Consent applies to us:
We are all party to the denial of quality shelter to the
      shanty-dwellers and the homeless
(i) in our society
(ii) in our trading partners' societies
(iii) on this globe
To help in what specific
Getting it just right:
Content (problem based ethics): Some (affordable)
quick fixes have unintended consequences:
•Asbestos sheeting made shelter more affordable…
•Nuclear power?
•Not recycling water? Not capturing stormwater…?
•Building a desalination plant powered by brown
coal electricity?
•Building a North South pipeline?

Getting it just right: Generosity
flows through enchainments,
& that requires self knowledge.
 Getting it just right: Generosity
       versus exclusivity:
Ernest L. Boyer, Lee D. Mitgang, Building
Community: A new future for Architecture
Education and Practice, The Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching,
(1996) Princeton, versus
Architectural theory that is isolated from
societal needs & the abdication of architecture
to elite and commercial demands (as decried
by Tafuri)
     To know what?
Understanding „just right‟ in
  architectural practice:
Dilemmas for Architecture

 An… important dilemma is that architecture
 provides services that are seemingly not
 vital to people's health and welfare in the
 same sense that the professional services
 of physicians, or even lawyers and dentists,
 are (Blau, LvS italics).
               To know what?
     De-Confusing the Knowledge
      Base: the basis for „just right‟
Many of these dilemmas result from the
fact that much of the building field is
controlled not by architects but by
engineers, developers, and building
contractors - at least in sheer numbers of
buildings (Blau) we cannot claim
exclusivity of knowledge or service…
3% of houses, 8-12% of housing, 80% of institutional &
commercial buildings (?) 20% of industrial (?) how much of
the landscape?
     What is
knowledge base?
 Spatial thinking
   How can our architecture best
   pursue a „just right‟ role? Base
   it on the spatial intelligence of
               us all?

through (tri) polarities derived from ethical
Tectonics/Civic Narrative Expression/Poetics
Exemplar: Melbourne Masters Architecture
TarraWarra Museum of Art 2004/5
   Getting it „just right‟ finding a
 continuum between the spatial
 intelligence of everyone and of
   architects and their canons:
“But the common denominator in achieving
architectural presence on a broader front is
community respect for the act of
architecture itself, not simply a procuration

Kerstin Thompson at launch of Design City Melbourne, April 28,
  Towards a continuum:
Architecture as caretaker of
everyone‟s history in space
Our architectural engagement with spatial
intelligence is applied through dialogues with
society. Architecture suffers when it is simply
asserted as the will of a designer, or as the
logic of a canon, without accessing the spatial
intelligence of the community it serves. Such
assertions close down people‟s engagements
with architectural reality and damage
society‟s regard for spatial thinking as a
knowledge held in custody by experts.
 Spatial Intelligence as a knowledge
  base for a „just right‟ architectural
Universality: everyone has the capability of spatial
intelligence, what we do acknowledges that.
Humanity: architecture holds the accumulated spatial
knowledge of society in custody, and develops it
Informed Consent: the architecture that I do is in
conversation with that of the client community and of the
best of its kind on the globe
Content: applying spatial thinking to specific situations
Generosity: acknowledge tri-polar debate as a tool for
building a continuum between specialist knowledge and
community mental space (in Piu)
To extend the penetration of spatial thinking in
Australia we have to look for more than a
structural adjustment such as introducing a
short-listing, criterion based selection system,
such as that pioneered here at RMIT.
We face the longer task of creating an
intellectual context through which we achieve
respect for the profession of spatial intelligence,
a profession that creates spatial realities
appropriate to the needs of each place and of
each community that we serve.
        Creating a continuum
“It is to the extent that architecture is valued
in the community as a part of its intellectual
life that we must envy our northern
colleagues, for their value depends on this
general valuation - usually the result of
centuries of accretion.” Kerstin Thompson
And the sense of an architectural continuum
depends on spatial thinking being held in
high regard by entire communities.
      The way to a continuum:
• When a parent throws a ball to a child, the
  entire sporting continuum opens up ahead of
  both, all the way to the finals and on to the
  Olympics, with every shade of possibility in
• When a parent chooses wallpaper or buys a
  lamp, we scorn the decorative impulse and
  close down the continuum of inhabiting
  space… thus isolating architecture and
  belittling the spatial intelligence of all…

Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture, Chapman &
   Hall Ltd. (1959) London
  But where does quality service arise?
The emphasis on corporate values over architectural values
denies the fact that (Blau):
Small and incompletely rationalised offices,
though handicapped by diseconomies of scale,
are the seedbed of ideas that produce high
quality work. And when they venture beyond the
limits of their scale and flaunt their
diseconomies, they do exceptionally good work.
The need is to bring small scale operators into
engagement with broad communal objectives
Architecture is inherently risk-taking:

"Daedalus is remembered as the first to venture to fly
(escaping from Minos with his son Icarus). What is
often forgotten is that Daedalus, in legend at least,
was also the first important architect, having designed
the extraordinary labyrinth and temple complex for his
patron, King Minos.” (Blau)
Icarus of course flew too high, the sun melted the wax
holding the feathers to his wings, and he plunged into
the sea and died.
Embracing the continuum is to
 engage the community with
       creative risk:
  "Ideas are found to play a role in change, and although it is a conditional role,
   they are instrumental just at the point of potential impasse, specifically in the

                     midst of structural contradictions...”(Blau)

     There are no predetermined
      outcomes. The piling up of
  contradictions is redolent with vast
     indeterminacy, which in turn
     creates the opportunities for
  experimentation and innovation ...
          in our chosen field
                   Embracing risk:

A variety of forms of risk structure are
inherent in architecture. These relate to the
dilemmas that confront contemporary
practitioners. Blau J Architects and Firms: a Sociological Perspective on
Architectural     Practice       The        MIT        Press        1987
  Risk Management?

  Architecture ... is governed by
     structures of risk that
 accompany opposing conditions
         of various sorts:
each embodying ethical dilemmas
            The dilemmas:
•the dependence on commissions (but cf. Katsalidis);
•a poor distinction between architecture and building,
(and thus among architects and engineers, developers,
contractors) - that is: a confused knowledge base;
•the lack of congruence between those to whom the
architect is ethically responsible (for example the
residents of a housing project) and those to whom an
architect is accountable (the ... agency commissioning it)
•the constraints imposed on design practice by the
increasing size and complexity of architectural offices;
•the lag between plans and their fully realised built form;
            Risk Avoidance
• Corporate structures for architecture seek to
  shift the risk to those who stand to benefit.
  Murphy Jahn, for example, do not design any
  details. They describe what they want, and
  approve shop drawings of details designed by
  the contractors, but on the basis of „the look‟
• The architecture is only as good as the
  descriptions…which makes us into poets?
 A Risk Embracing Ethics?
• Can a profession of rebels exist?
  knowing, doing, helping rebels?
• Or is „the profession‟ with its normative
  business ethics codes the wrong vehicle
  for research-led practice?
• Could a discourse-based ethics support
  research-led practice?
Paradox: success tends to normalisation ...
and risk avoidance. For further success, another
Daedalus risk cycle must ensue…
See Mastering Architecture: Becoming a Creative Innovator in Practice,
Wiley Academy, Chichester.

         A Risk Embracing Ethics?
   A Risk Embracing Ethics?

• Components of such an ethics:
  Remembering cultural capital
• Components of such an ethics:
  Building public behaviours
   Components of such an Ethics:
Growing local cultures of architecture (i)
    “Quaderns sets out to present the
architecture produced within our territorial
The market and propaganda creates and
  promotes solitary architects, rooted by
 nothing but their killer instinct, individual
    creators in need of a recognisable
   philosophy and style of their own the
 inspired authors of singular buildings…”
   Components of such an Ethics:
Growing local cultures of architecture (ii)

 “Quaderns seeks to counter this figure with
    that of an architect in whom ability and
    personal skill are the manifestation of a
  collective body of knowledge, learned and
   constituted over time, in which individual
  difference forms part of the characteristics
               of the community.”
              Editorial Q249 Spring 2006
    So, a tale of two cities (i)
In this city
•the schools are indifferent to speculative research through
•the leaders of the profession sue their critics for damages;
•research is confined to building science or history;
•the intellectual life of architecture is circumscribed to „one
true path‟
•the leaders engage in power politics placing commercial
values ahead of architectural values.
Here there an ethical profession of architecture is difficult to
      A tale of two cities (ii)
In this city
•architects ensure that the schools are predominantly
engaged in speculative, practice-based research in the
medium of architecture itself;
•practice is informed by ideas;
•a tri-polarity of ideas is nurtured;
•positions are articulated in exhibitions and publications;
•established architects engage in design research;
•government ensures that small practices have work in the
public sector, that there is a ladder of opportunity;
•the community is engaged in the spatial thinking
Here there is a possibility of ethical architecture.