22 Mar 2004 - 23 Mar 2004 All day New Hall, Cambridge


Buckingham House, New Hall, Cambridge

Conference sponsored by CPD for Architects in association with the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and CRASSH

How secure is the future of architecture? In this fast commercial world is there a place for high ideals and integrity in design as there had been in the past?

This conference brings together philosophers, architectural theorists and historians, practising architects and other members of the building professions not, as is frequently the case, merely to discuss aesthetic issues, but to examine the ethical role of the architect in today's changing society.

How can architects “intend what ought to be” in today's society, and can such idealism be reconciled with pragmatic issues? Are architects so constrained by current conditions that they cannot take on that kind of responsibility? Did they in fact have such a responsibility in the past, and should they even attempt to assume it today? Or should their role be confined to one of assisting in the provision of the products that today's society requires, at the right time and price?

    * Contributors
    * Abstracts
    * Provisional Programme


Nicholas Ray (Architecture)

Contributors include:
Dr Onora O'Neill, CBE FBA FmedSci (The Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve)

Onora O'Neill is Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. She lectures in the faculties of Philosophy and History and Philosophy of Science, and has written books and articles in ethics, political philosophy, on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and on bioethics. She is a former member and chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, and chairs the Nuffield Foundation. She is a Member of the House of Lords, sits as a crossbencher and was a member of the Select Committee on Stem Cell Research.
Neil Leach (Cantab.) Dip. Arch.(Cantab.), PhD (Nottingham)

Neil Leach is an architect and theorist. He teaches at the Architectural Association in London and the Dessau Institute of Architecture in Germany. He has also been Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York, Professor of Architectural Theory at the University of Bath, and Reader in Architecture and Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of The Anaesthetics of Architecture, Millennium Culture, Camouflage (forthcoming), The Politics of Space (forthcoming) and Forget Heidegger (forthcoming); editor of Rethinking Architecture, Architecture and Revolution, The Hieroglyphics of Space, Designing for a Digital World; co-editor of Digital Tectonics (forthcoming); and co-translator of L B Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books.
Julian Roberts

Julian Roberts grew up in Germany and England and took his Ph.D. at Cambridge. He has taught at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London. Since 1994 he has been Associate Professor at the Institute for Philosophy of the LMU Munich. He is a practising barrister (in London) and an attorney (in Munich). His books include Walter Benjamin, German Philosophy: An Introduction, The Logic of Reflection and (in preparation) The Philosophy of Law.
Tom Spector MArch BS PhD

Tom Spector trained as an architect but undertook a Masters in Philosophy. He is the author of The Ethical Architect The Dilemma of Practice, which outlines a number of ways in which ethical dilemmas intersect with architectural practice, and The Guide to the Architecture of Georgia. His interests include the theory and practice of perspective drawing, and architecture design theory, especially as it relates to professional practice issues, and moral philosophy.
Richard Hill MA (Cantab) Dip Arch RIBA

Richard Hill trained as an architect and has had a varied career in research, teaching and the management of building projects in the public and private sectors. He is the author of Designs and their Consequences: Architecture and Aesthetics, published by Yale University Press in 1999.
Sjoerd Soeters

Sjoerd Soeters is an architect who established his own office 25 years ago and is based in Amsterdam. The office, now 65 people, works on projects varying from city- and masterplanning to architecture and interiors.His work is published in a monograph (Uitgeverij 010 Publishers,1995). He has been involved in master-planning in several European countries as well as Holland, and has examined in schools of architecture in Britain.
Andrew Saint MA (Oxon) MPhil (Warburg)

Andrew Saint is Professor of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. He was previously Architectural Editor at the Survey of London and a Senior Historian for English Heritage. Amongst his publications are a monograph on Norman Shaw, Towards a Social Architecture and The Image of the Architect. He is working on a book entitled Architect and Engineer – a study of sibling rivalry. Andrew Saint is a frequent contributor of reviews to the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books.
Nicholas Ray MA (Cantab) Dipl UCL RIBA

Nicholas Ray is a University Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and Director of Nicholas Ray Associates, architects, a practice mostly engaged in buildings for tertiary education. He is the author of Cambridge Architecture – a Concise Guide, (Re) Sursele Formei Arhitecturale, numerous articles in professional journals and a forthcoming study of Alvar Aalto. He is a member of the editorial boards of arq and ptah (Helsinki).
Sir Michael Latham MA (Cantab) DL

Sir Michael Latham is Chairman of the Construction Industry Training Board. In 1993-4 he was Chairman of the Joint Government/Industry Review of Procurement and Contractural Problems in the Construction Industry, arising out of which he published Trust and Money (1993) and Constructing the Team (1994), which initiated far-reaching reforms affecting the Building Industry and Professionals alike. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria, the Bartlett School of Architecture and (currently) at the University of Central England.
David Adamson MA (Cantab)

David Adamson is Director of Estates at the University of Cambridge. An undergraduate at King's College, he returned to Cambridge after lecturing and working, mostly overseas, in construction research and contracting while with the Royal Engineers; subsequently he was scientific advisor to NATO in Brussels, and Bursar at Bristol University. He has served as national client representative on the Construction Industry Board, Movement for Innovation, and is a current board member of the Construction Industry Training Board and Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel.
Jane Collier B.Sc(Econ), MA Cantab, Ph.D

Jane Collier is Senior Research Associate at the Judge Institute of Management Studies in the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. She is Editor Business Ethics: a European Review, and Book Review Editor of Business Ethics Quarterly. She is Chair of the Co-Operative Insurance Society SRI Advisory Committee, a member of the BT Corporate Social Reporting Independent Advisory Panel, and is a Trustee of the Institute of Business Ethics. She currently consults with KPMG on the development of ethics training.
Giles Oliver MA (Cantab) Dip Arch RIBA

Giles Oliver practises as an architect in London, where he is an Associate at Penoyre & Prasad, principally engaged on primary healthcare and social housing projects. As joint co-ordinator he was instrumental in establishing the Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment master's programme at the University of Cambridge in 1994, and continues to act as visiting tutor to the course. He chaired the Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel's report on Design published in 2001 and is presently a member of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment research steering group. He regularly contributes reviews to Architectural Review, arq and Architecture Today.
Andrew Ballantyne

Andrew Ballantyne is Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. He has also taught at the universities of Sheffield and Bath. He is author of Architectures: Modernism and After, Architecture, Landscape and Liberty, Architecture – a very short introduction, and edited a book of essays What is Architecture? to which he also contributed The Nest and the Pillar of Fire.

The conference will appeal to architects and other members of the building professions, teachers of architecture, sociology and social studies and anyone with an interest in the relevance of ethical thinking in the applied social sciences.

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Conference Abstracts
Onora O'Neill
Intelligent Accountability and Professionalism

Professional accountability has been widely replaced by other, supposedly more effective forms of accountability. These are usually forms of managerial accountability, by which targets are set so that performance may be controlled, judged and sanctioned; meanwhile professional accountability has come to be seen as a cloak for professional cosiness, so inadequate. Yet, the very phrase managerial accountability suggests a conflation of tasks. Management is directed at those who are managed, accountability to those who are not managed (e.g. shareholders, electors, clients). Agents may not be best held accountable for their performance as managers – or other activities – by managing that performance. Governance and management are distinct activities. Intelligent accountability is not a matter of securing and extending managerial control.

Could professional accountability form (part of) a more intelligent approach to accountability? Or do professions and professional bodies always mask producer capture and self interest, hence frustrate rather than ensure accountability? Professions that take accountability seriously need to ensure the quality of work done by their members to others who are less expert. This task has ethical as well as technical dimensions. Neither accountability to clients, nor high standards of transparency, nor their combination can ensure intelligent professional accountability. A more robust approach to accountability would need a serious consideration of means for securing independent professional judgement.
Neil Leach
The Ethical Function of Architecture

Karsten Harries's book, The Ethical Function of Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), has been one of the most prominent of architectural publications in recent years to have referred to the concept of ethics in its title. MIT Press is a highly respected architectural publishing house, and Harries himself is a distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.

But what exactly is Harries referring to when he uses the term 'ethics'? Can this book be used profitably as a means of engaging with the role of ethics within the construction industry? Or has Harries merely appropriated the term for an aesthetic agenda that has little to do with the actual ethics of architectural practice? Can there indeed be any such thing as the 'ethical function' of architecture?

This paper will offer an overview of Harries's work in general, together with a more precise critique of his use of the term 'ethics'. It will expose the limitations of Harries's approach, and seek to offer an alternative approach in which the role of ethics within architectural practice is addressed in a more comprehensive manner.
Julian Roberts
How much sense does the link between architecture and morality make?

One rather typical modernist position claims that architecture is 'moral', just as the world in general is 'good' whenever things are suited to a purpose. Architectural value may be determined by reference to functionality. If a building is good for people and for their purposes, then it is 'moral'. Obviously, architecture must also be beautiful and pleasing. But the bottom line is analytical and functional, and emotional valuations are dismissed as secondary. In a world which violates rationalism at all points, this kind of modernism is hardly convincing. One response has been to take refuge in a Hobbesian rhetoric of power. This assumes that there is no natural virtue, and hence that architecture cannot reflect it; the overriding function of a building is to assert whatever identity its occupants wish to project, with – increasingly – sheer intimidation as the foundational modality.

But this is rather cynical. Is there no other way to articulate morality – understood, at any rate, as excellence of character in the face of adversity and self-regard – without falling into naiveté, dogmatism or brutalism? The fault, both in modernism and in its opponents, probably lies in their insistence on the priority of the cognitive. Contrary to this, one might say that moral and aesthetic judgements are not indistinct versions of analytical ones, but are elementary in their own right. Unlike analytical judgements, they do not adhere to systemic criteria such as non-contradiction, and so cannot be computed in advance. They are humanistic and conventional rather than absolute. Of necessity, reflection on them takes place on an empirical level: the questions of what constitutes virtue, and of what constitutes good taste, are – quite properly – ones of experience, training, and historical observation.

This vision, pre-eminently, is associated with the philosophy of the eighteenth century. What does it mean for architecture now?
Tom Spector
Codes of Ethics and Coercion

I intend to examine the written codes of ethics by which architects are supposed to practice. Does, for instance, the bland, flavourless document known as the American Institute of Architects' Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct actually capture any practising architect's most deeply held values or beliefs? This document is hardly noble and visionary since it is devoted to instructing its members to obey the law. Why are architects' codes of ethics like this? Is there something so wrong or dangerous with the values that actually motivate architects that they must be hidden away somewhere with their old fee schedules and accessed on the sly? How can architects begin to account for the disparity between prescriptive Codes of Ethics and what it actually feels like to be an architect and believe in they do? How could one begin to reform architectural Codes of Ethics into something meaningful, a document with action-guiding gusto, or even more ambitiously, reform the profession's values in general?

If instead of regarding a Code of Ethics as a sadly stale artefact of an otherwise interesting profession, we regard it with curiosity – as a potential bellwether of the profession's internal compromises it makes to hold itself together – then we may find a starting point from which to begin exposing (and eventually, reforming) the struggles within this profession many of us love. Instead of asking of a Code of Ethics: “What values does it express?” let's not assume that everyone within the profession is largely of one mind and ask instead the more pointed, political question: “Whose values does it serve?”
Richard Hill
The Ethics of Luxury

Architects are assailed by many varieties of goodness or rightness. There is moral behaviour which architects must grapple with, as everybody must. There is a kind of goodness, maybe a good-enough-ness, that goes along with professional life, in exchange for which professionals are accorded privileges and respect. There is the goodness/rightness that is central to artistic activity – in which a work finds its true, its proper form – and which is still a sustaining principle of architectural design. There is the good that architects can bring to their clients, an improvement in their lives, an increase in pleasure. There is the goodness/rightness that architects pursue in politics, partly because they are ordinary citizens, but also because the state controls numerous aspects of the built environment.

It may be that these varieties of goodness belong to distinct conceptual fields and they just use similar terms: no doubt other contributors will illuminate this issue. But consider how, in architectural life they become combined and intertwined: as an example I wish briefly to discuss the tricky question of luxury, treated often as a moral, artistic, political issue and on occasions – negatively – as a professional one.
Sjoerd Soeters
On being a humble architect

According to Adolf Loos, architecture with a big A was to be reserved for the palaces and the “grabdenkmaler”; all other buildings ought to behave more or less humbly as parts of the city and act as good neighbours.

The official Dutch policy, that every building should be Architecture, has turned out to be a disaster, when with the disintegration of proper, coherent and responsible planning, “architecture” was moved centre-stage to produce ever newer, more modern, and more attractive images.

Our office, Soeters van Eldonk Ponec, came to the conclusion that it no longer made sense to add more of these free-standing, sculptural, egocentric structures to the scrapheap that most of the suburban landscape has been turned into. In our projects we seek rather to embroider existing elements and structures and build them out to coherent areas, in which, as Raymond Unwin put it, “the variety of each is dominated by the harmony of the whole”. Instead of aiming at the invention of ever more daring, news-breaking world wonders, the ethically responsible architect should act as a “bricoleur” – looking for the best way to build in the local circumstances, with local and regional characteristics. Mostly architects are acting with developers as clients, and they need to work very closely with local government, within a limited budget, to add to the existing city fabric, and to make “situations” in which people like to live, work, shop, and play, even if, or exactly because, they have not studied architecture, the fine arts – or ethics.
Andrew Saint
The ethics of the professional architect since 1800

This talk will take the character of an enquiry rather than an argument. It will start from the premise that dominant ethical value-systems have always been needed throughout the history of architectural practice, but that most have proved unstable. What circumstances have made particular value-systems obtain at particular times, and then give place to others? Can one successfully distinguish those values which derive from aesthetics from others which have social or professional origins, interested or disinterested?

The talk will touch on four ethical postures repeatedly found in architectural discourse over the past two centuries:

    * the call for 'truth' or 'honesty' in the appearance of buildings;
    * the belief that the architect has an independent and disinterested position midway between the client and the builder;
    * the idea that architects occupy a privileged role in the vanguard of social progress;
    * the notion that architects have a kind of supra-responsibility to the integrity of their buildings which transcends their loyalty to client or user;
    * History will be used to sketch in a brief background for each of these positions and help clarify their thrust, their origins and their destiny.

It may be suspected that the ethical impulse is as crucial to the survival and well-being of a marginal profession as the aesthetic one. In rallying to such powerful moral causes as the housing of the masses or the ecological movement, architects may in fact be positioning themselves at pressure points which seem, at least for a time, susceptible to skills and patterns of operating ill-suited to a modern, market-driven economy.
Nicholas Ray
The Cambridge History Faculty Building – a case study in ethical dilemmas in the 20th century

In 1985 I was asked to review James Stirling's recently published Buildings and Projects, where the History Faculty building was illustrated in all its pristine splendour. The building was widely admired by architects, but not generally by its users: just at the same time the University was debating whether to demolish the twenty-year old building because of its technical failings.

I used Thomas Nagel's essay The Fragmentation of Value (in Mortal Questions) to argue that architects were faced with a series of values (Nagel listed five) which might well conflict, and which necessarily entailed the exercise of not only professional but also ethical judgements. I suggested, for instance, that architects who recognised that they themselves were not as formally skilful as Stirling had a duty not to take the same position in relation to conflicting values as he had.

I intend to re-visit that question in greater depth, drawing on the thought of the anglo-phone sceptical tradition (Bernard Williams, Nagel himself), and also relating the ethical dilemmas encountered to the particular circumstances of this commission: the competition, the client body, the contractual relationships between designers contractors and clients.
Sir Michael Latham
Constructing the Team – How are the Professions involved?

When I wrote Constructing the Team nearly ten years ago, I believed that one key to unlocking the seemingly inexcusable and interminable level of dispute and conflict was through creating the ethos and the practical delivery which would allow all to see their role within a project as equally vital. A “silo” approach to responsibility for work, both on and off site, was clearly unsuccessful, as it involved everyone blaming everyone else and seeking to shuffle it off, usually on to the shoulders of the least able to cope with it.

Much has changed since then, but the concept of the team is still not fully accepted, let alone followed in practice. I am proud to be an Honorary Fellow both of the RIBA and the RIAS, and greatly value my links with the architectural profession. I will seek to examine in my talk how we can take this process of working together forward over the next decade.
Jane Collier
Architecture and moral imagination

This paper addresses the question of ethical decision-making by architects and in architectural practice. In the general case 'wrong' decisions are frequently the result not of moral amnesia but of a lack of moral imagination and a perception of the situation that is limited by tradition, culture and/or personal motivation. The idea of 'moral imagination' is explored in terms (a) of the need for awareness of the conceptual schema, mental models or 'scripts' functioning in a given decision situation; (b) of the possibilities of revising the dominating 'script' so as to take into account new possibilities within the situation; (c) of the ability to envision possibilities that are 'unthinkable' within existing schema and thus to generate new ways of 'framing' the situation; and (d) of the insight needed to uncover the moral dimensions of all possible outcomes.

Moral imagination is not simply an individual attribute. It has to be located within a systemic approach that takes into account the interdependent elements, subsystems, networks of relationships and patterns of interaction that prevail in a given professional situation. The paper will develop this point using case studies related to the practice of architecture.
Giles Oliver
Responsible practice within the new framework

Architectural education generally skirts over ethics in favour of the presentation of styles of thought and their associated aesthetic. The closet character of university-based training, where lack of responsiveness can perversely be esteemed as a distinctive 'virtue', minimises dialogue with users or the wider society. Subsequently, architectural practice plunges the practitioner into a terrain of choices and conflicting demands. Generally the younger architect is powerless to influence the direction of projects and merely assists. The tacit goal remains to attain self-expression after a period of necessary eclipse. Who this self is is rarely examined or questioned, either in school or in practice. The most significant impact is a resultant lack of awareness of (indeed resistance to) the part played by others in the creation of the built environment, let alone insight into or questioning of the authority of those who commission projects. There is an ethical vacuum sustained through the systematic withholding of dialogue.

Recent pressure to produce architecture within a wider team framework and to account for its benefit over the lifetime of buildings has challenged this posture. A matrix of socially oriented “design values” has recently been developed (Design Quality Indicators 2003). Will these promote the dialogues so long neglected at the heart of architect's work and in doing so arouse the necessity for active ethical debate and commitment? Or will they be seen as a shielding device? This talk will use the example of the provocative tensions activated by recently formed private/public partnerships to deliver new forms of primary healthcare to examine these issues.
Andrew Ballantyn
Hearth and horizon: the architect's ethos

Everyone has ethics, whether or not they are clearly articulated. Each architect's ethos (each person's) is made up of sets of values that sometimes work together and sometimes come into conflict. We realise our character as ethical beings when we find ourselves in positions where we have to take decisions that involve giving priority to one version of the good over another. In architecture for example there are ethics of production, sets of values driven by commerce, which usually come into play where speed and cost-effectiveness come to the fore, and others where one would be trying to achieve work that has lasting value.

The weight that is given to each such value-system varies from one individual to another and from one society to another. In practice it is necessary to choose between these sets of 'goods', and it is only by examining the choices that one can tell what one's ethos really is (rather than what one would like it to be). One learns about sets of values by being able to see when one set of good intentions is more important than another. And the decision will be influenced by the breadth of one's vision. The values of personal survival and thriving, must be balanced against the values of the far horizon. As we project our values across the sky, and introject the universal into our particular circumstances, we come to see the world as being imbued with sets of values, and we translate them into the kinds of people we develop into, and the kinds of buildings we allow ourselves to build. Ethics are generators of architecture.


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