Who Builds Your Architecture?

transforming global workforces

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While looking at work in relation to architecture at this year’s theme of the Design as Politics graduation studio, we of course came across the fuss again about Zaha Hadid’s Quatar World Cup Stadium. Even more interesting is that the debate that arose around this project, triggered Laura Diamond Dixit, Tiffany Rattray, and Lindsey Lee to focus their contribution to the Istanbul Design Biennale on migratory paths of workers as well as working processes in design and construction.

In 2014 many people disagreed with the comments of star-architect Zaha Hadid on the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar. It was announced that more than 1200 migrant workers had died during the construction of the Quatar World Cup Stadium, which Hadid had designed. Probably, no one was more critical on Hadid than reviewer Martin Filler from The New York Review of Books, denouncing her carelessness to the estimated one thousand laborers who had died.

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However, Hadid had a disparagement suit against Filler and told the BBC during an interview that there had not been any problems in Qatar. She considered it not the duty of the architect to deal with the terrible conditions of migrant construction workers laboring on multi-billion dollar projects. According to Hadid, architects don’t have the power to do anything about this.

Is Zaha Hadid mistaken about having no influence on worker’s conditions regarding the buildings she designs? How can architects ensure human right protection extended to those who build architecture worldwide? How do architects, designers, engineers, manufacturers, consultants, production line workers and others contribute to building processes, and who takes responsibility for the illegal migrant workers?

In a project exhibited at the Istanbul Design Biennale, visitors can discuss and experience what participation in an architectural complex building implies in the context of global mobility. In this project the convergence of global workforces on a building site is illustrated in schedules and maps, supported by reports from sources such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documenting all sorts of issues in regard to migrant construction workers. The migratory paths of workers as well as processes in design and construction are imagined, and connected to ideas on solution and intervention. Could this exhibition pursue architects, like Zaha Hadid, to advocate for better working and living conditions on building sites around the world?

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Sources images: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/14/qatar-reform-labout-laws-outcry-world-cup-slaves ,   http://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/al-wakrah-stadium/ ,   http://www.e-flux.com/journal/who-builds-your-architecture-an-advocacy-report/.

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