Lecture Series: Blame The Architect

course code: AR0494

Le Corbusier called houses “machines for living.” France’s housing projects, as we now know, became machines for alienation.”
Christopher Caldwell, New York Times, November 25, 2005

Are designers to blame for poverty, social tension and urban violence?
After the riots in the French banlieues of 2005, fingers were pointed at the architects and planners responsible for the high-rise suburbs as the culprits behind the alienation, the poverty and ultimately the violence erupting around French cities. Just as 20 years earlier in Broadwater Farm, even Le Corbusier himself was blamed for the street fights that took place. Does architectural form have the power to change people’s behavior in such violent ways as some critics would have you believe? Are these riots insurrections against oppression, or are they part of a culture of violence, that uses modern urban spaces as its theatrical backdrop? Who is to blame? The system, the rioter, the architect?

The broad framework for this lecture series consists of the relationship between certain spatial models and the social processes that take place within them. More specifically, the series deals with the links between the urban master plan and social unrest: the main reason behind organizing it is the series of riots in French suburbs in the fall of 2005, and the debate that followed about the responsibility of architects and urban planners for the social developments within the neighbourhoods they design.

In the last 50 years, large urban development plans have been pointed out as both cause and panacea for urban violence. Political processes, developments in the field of architecture and urbanism, social and economical development and changes in sociology and city geography all play a role in this issue.

The lecture series’ main theme, deals with the question whether certain architectural and urban concepts can lead to unwanted social behaviour – or the other way around: can interventions on an architectural and urban level be catalysts in enforcing socially accepted behaviour? The lectures each deal with a specific example of social unrest in western cities in the last 4 decades, the theory written in response to this unrest, and the current situation in the same areas. The series consist of 6 lectures (available below)and will ultimately lead to a publication


1. “The Original Sin” – Introduction to the Theme.

2. “Burn Baby Burn” – The Race Riots That Destroyed Detroit, 1967

3. “Di Great Inshoreckshan” – The Broadwater farm Riot, 2985

4. “Porno For Pyro’s” – The Justice Riots, Los Angeles, 1992

5. “Racaille!” – The Banlieue Riots, France 2005
Unfortunatly there is no video availeble for this lecture

6*. “Broken city” The 2011 UK riots
Unfortunatly there is no video availeble for this lecture


* The first lecture series took place before the UK riots. Lecture 6 was as that time called   “Rat City” – Epilogue: Environmental Psychology, Urban Dystopias and Crime Prevention.

Happily for you, the video can still been seen on Youtube!

And for those who can’t get enough: we selected some very interesting literature:

Detroit Riots

  • Fine, S., 2007. Violence in the Model City – The Cavanagh Administration Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967. Michigan: Michigan State University Press
  • Thomas, J.M., 1997. Redevelopment and Race – Planning a finer city in postwar Detroit. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Broadwater Farm  Riots

Banlieue Riots

Los Angeles Riots

  • Banham, R., 1986. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. Berkeley: University of California Press

UK Riots

10 responses to “Lecture Series: Blame The Architect

  1. Are the lectures open for the public? what is the schedule and where are they held?

    • Hi Pedram. Yes, the lectures are open to the public, and will be held at the faculty of architecture at the TU Delft. More information will be posted on the blog very soon!

  2. Just subscribed for the lectures… Thanks for the tip Claudia!

    Is it true that the lectures start in november?

    • Yes, the first one will be held at November 15. More info on the blog and our Facebook page soon – we are working on the flyer…

  3. Pingback: Design as Politics

  4. Really enjoying the lecture series on YouTube. Is Lecture 5 on the French riots available online? I was really hoping to watch it!

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for watching the lectures! Sorry it took so long to reply, we have been really busy working on other projects. Unfortunately, the 5th lecture has not been recorded, and is thus not available online. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Delft this next month, you’re invited to attend the rerun of last year’s series: see our blog for more info on where and when they will be held.

  5. Please can someone provide me with the lecturers full name so that I can use him as one of my references

    • Hi Charissa.

      His initials and surname are: W.A.J. Vanstiphout
      His titles (in case you need it): Prof.dr

  6. heheh.. nice article friends!

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