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Architecture for the urban poor, the 'new professionalism' of 'community architects' and the implications for architectural education: reflections on practice from Thailand

Tovivich, S.; (2011) Architecture for the urban poor, the 'new professionalism' of 'community architects' and the implications for architectural education: reflections on practice from Thailand. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Conventional architectural practice and education has long been limited to serving a minority of the world's elite population. This research is interested in extending the boundaries of architectural practice and education. It sets out to explore the role of architects in addressing the emergence and growth of informal settlements which represent the majority of the built environment in most developing countries. It traces the transformation from a providing paradigm to a supporting paradigm in global housing policies for the urban poor which calls for a new role for architects and the architectural profession – the 'architecture of empowerment'. As a contribution to this paradigm shift, the research focuses on architectural design processes 'with' poor urban communities in Thailand as a case study. Reflections on the practice of NHA, CODI and CASE architects are examined and compared through an investigation of the relationship between their values, knowledge and skills, in order to understand not only the challenges faced in their practice, but also the implications for architectural education. The research illustrates that architects, who employ the architectural design process as an empowering tool for community members, work as 'reflective educators' encompassing the professional roles of 'provider', 'supporter' and 'catalyst'. The conditions underlining each role include (1) the architect's personal values, knowledge and skills; (2) organizational policies and supports; and (3) clients' values concerning participation and participatory design process. The research argues that the knowledge and skills of the architect as provider remain important, but not enough to deal effectively with the challenges posed by informal settlements. Also crucial are the new architectural values, knowledge and skills related to the roles of supporter and catalyst which relate respectively, to design to support community members to make their own decisions; and empower them to believe in themselves, collectively act for themselves and reflect on their actions. This calls for a transformation in the power relations between architects and their clients in the design process, and when addressed in an 'alternative architectural education', also calls for a transformation in the power relations between architectural tutors and their students in the classroom and design studio, and the promotion of a reflective educational practice.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Architecture for the urban poor, the 'new professionalism' of 'community architects' and the implications for architectural education: reflections on practice from Thailand
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Development Planning Unit

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