Methinks Rob Cowan doth protest too much in his defence of architects against Deyan Sudjic's assertion they tend to serve the rich and powerful (AJ 28.07.05).
True Sudjic, after years of discussing architecture purely in terms of style, has only now come round to the view some have been expounding for decades but that does not invalidate the premise. Whether in the Middle East in the 1970s and '80s or China now, architects flock to where the power and wealth is, irrespective of the nature of the regimes served. With no moral imperative to guide architects (the RIBA/ARB would never strike off a member who designed, say, a cutting-edge torture chamber) they are free to work for whoever has the cash to build.
And, since the demise of local authority departments, architects who wish to contribute to people's needs rather than profit, are marginalised. The huge edifices for multinationals are first and foremost symbols of global power over local communities and only incidentally expressions of aesthetic or energy-conscious niceties. Despite reservations about Sudjic's own motives, this is a welcome blast of natural ventilation into the debate.
Louis Hellman, London W3