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Rethinking Practice: Climate, Equity, Labor

Fri, Nov 10, 2023    9am

Rethinking Practice: Climate, Equity, Labor is a one-day conference organized by Alessandro Orsini, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP. The symposium brings together practitioners, professors, and students to support the idea that the architect’s community sits in society like others, opposing the insular position that architecture has held for a long time.

This conference is free and open to the public.


Introduction – 9am, Wood Auditorium
Alessandro Orsini (Architensions)

Session One – 9-11 am, Wood Auditorium
Climate, Equity, Labor

Ivi Diamantopoulou (New Affiliates)
Ritchie Yao (Dash Marshall)
Nick Roseboro (Architensions)

Session Two – 11:15-1:15 pm, Wood Auditorium
Equity, Climate, Labor

Jerome Haferd (Jerome Haferd / Brandt : Haferd)
Bryony Roberts (Bryony Roberts Studio)
Ashely Kuo & Andrea Chiney (A+A+A)

Session Three – 2:15-4:15 pm, Avery 114
Labor, Equity, Climate

Nicholas McDermott (Future Expansion)
Amelyn Ng (Assistant Professor of Architecture, RISD)
Can Vu Bui & Lane Rick (Office of Things)


The disentanglement between architecture and politics is at the foundation of the biases of the profession and intertwined with changing financial and technological regimes. At the end of the first Industrial Revolution, the Crystal Palace, a building suspended between an industrial-capitalist future and a colonized past, became the symbol of the future. The political forces of one nation are placed in the hands of an architect tasked with representing power using novel materials such as glass and steel. In the interwar period, architecture became associated with nations and states’ desire to exploit the discipline’s social nature for governmental and ideological representation. With the advent of totalitarian and neoliberal regimes, architecture practice was enmeshed with ethical questions manifesting through specific aesthetics. Furthermore, after the Second World War, the modernist canon, with its exclusionary and anti-intersectional values, changed the architecture practice into a business model that commodified architecture, refusing politics and ethics. Architecture’s core values, historically stemming from processes of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy, have shaped the discourse within the practice and educational institutions, preventing the discipline from addressing essential questions of social justice, labor, and material extraction. Today, architecture began to examine the dynamics that produced these systemic inequalities, such as pathways to licensure and lack of representation of women, BIPOC, and queer communities.

Architecture and its related fields are also undeniably intertwined with climate change and fundamental labor issues through economic interests historically supporting the built environment. As a reaction over the past few years, we have witnessed a proliferation of alternative practices, focusing on issues of racial capitalism, gender, sexuality, and politics, shaping a multiplicity of unorthodox configurations ranging from cooperatives, nonprofits, and research-based agencies.

The Rethinking Practice symposium aims to promote a dialogue around radical practicing to address the discipline’s exclusionary dynamics to prompt models that allow architects to reclaim agency over the design processes, ethics, and the condition of labor under which architecture operates. The symposium asks how to redefine and reshape the practice as an alternative to corporate structures and their refusal of ethics to re-engage architecture with its core values of politics in a collective effort to tackle climate change, race, and gender, among others. The symposium centers around conversations that interpret, reflect, and analyze spatial practice to reassemble it into alternative modes that form new kinship among the workers, the architects, the clients, and the environment. These alternative practices reframe how to approach information gathering and explorations of aesthetics, geometries, and materials in a task to undo the biases of the discipline. Furthermore, the symposium reinforces the strong relationship between the academic space and the space of the practice, a connection that is part of the ecosystem of ideas, speculations, and practice at GSAPP.

This event content is equivalent to 6 AIA/CES total learning credits. Please contact events@arch.columbia.edu for more information.

Link to Session Recordings:
Session 1
Session 2
Session 3