So much is happening these days. It will take a couple of years to know whether it was for better of for worse. Yet it seems that all agree on that wherever you look in society, the so called middle classes are disappearing and the gap between rich and poor is getting much too large.
What we see is that practically in all countries the education is what suffers the most; budgets are cut while teachers are underpaid. University students have to take out loans in order to pay the school fees which have risen totally out of proportion. And, what makes it worse, often after graduation one cannot find employment, while being saddled with an enormous debt to pay back.
Obviously, this situation cannot last and we can observe the makings of changes sooner or later. Also, many scientists are worrying about the food situation in the coming years. Not so much due to overpopulation so much as a result of bad housekeeping of our governments.
Could there be solutions?
Yes, in many parts of the world people are leaving the crowded metropolises to live in smaller towns or downright in self-sustainable communities. Where one often has to switch occupations as it might be necessary to work at different things, for instance being a biologist for some hours or days and take care of preschool children at other times. Or being an architect doing some designing and in between being a builder or a carpenter, say.
Moreover, great changes are bound to occur in agriculture. So it could be that every one of us works part-time in hydroponics or permaculture, not to mention agroforestry. So, what would this mean in our architectural education? Put specialisation on the side for the time being and do almost the opposite. Learn various occupations, which means that in the coming chaos one can always switch and stay alive doing something else. One might have to build one’s own house, while preparing the garden for vegetable and fruit culture.
Really there are so many fields one can gather some knowledge often directly related to architecture. Design the settlement as part of the natural environment, non polluting and recycling. The knowledge and experiences are all there, we just have to become aware of the possibilities. Which means that in learning about architecture we must know to ask questions and not – as is common today – to only know the answers, which are usually solutions of the past.
Johan van Lengen, 01 Feb 2011