Arts & DesignEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can Architecture be Democratic?

The tension between The People and their places

Can architecture be democratic? Most people would readily agree that the built environment is bound to be political. Yet in the popular imagination the combination of “architecture” and “politics” tends to conjure up distinctly undemocratic figures: totalitarian leaders designing monumental edifices and avenues for eternity. And if authoritarians fancy themselves as architects, so a certain logic goes, architects often act like authoritarians: at best they might create something for the people, but not anything meaningfully seen as of the people and certainly not by the people. And yet there are ways of judging architecture and space to be more or less democratic — and, to some extent, practical strategies to render architecture (and also urban planning) democratic. These are bound to become ever more important in the twenty-first century, as our age is one of unprecedented urbanization and hence new planning and building challenges around the globe. …