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Architects should not ignore social needs

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Notwithstanding Michael Brown's letter (aj 18.03.99), there has been a regrettable silence since Paul Hyett's courageous introduction of human- rights issues (aj 04.03.99). Courageous because, as with many social issues generally, perhaps we would prefer that they did not exist?

For example and by contrast in the same issue (Concrete Quarterly, p15), Dennis Sharp applauds Chandigarh as 'a lasting symbol of modern India'. Is he not aware that Chandigarh has been castigated for its ignoring of social needs in India for all of 20 years, by Madu Sarin (herself an architect) and many others?

If Marco Goldschmied needs help in 'raising the profile of the profession', he could do worse than to promote those areas of participatory social concern generally which do not exist within the profession at large (for example refugee care, natural-disaster reduction, conflict resolution, post-war and post-disaster reconstruction, 'human architecture' and 'social responsibility' generally), so as to ameliorate an understandably persistent public perception of 'design' handed down from an elitist high table. However, there is a difference between undertaking work which happens to be socially and politically correct, and being involved on the ground in human rights and social issues. That vso reports a surge of participants from the construction industry not its volunteer programme in less developed countries, is indication enough that commitment exists (aj 18.03.99, p10).

James Lewis

Marshfield, Wilts

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