Do they teach ethics to architecture students? I ask this because there is a conflict over urban space in this country – how it looks, how it’s used – and I think architectural renderings have played a part into turning this into a class conflict.
For example, in Delhi, before the Commonwealth Games next year, the city government is making a lot of efforts to hide all visible manifestations of poverty. They’re rounding up beggars, trying them in mobile courts, and holding repeat offenders in “unspecified locations,” or sending them back to where they came from. Since 2004, they’ve been regularly evicting slums, beginning with the massive eviction of the Yamuna Pushta. Before the games, they’re covering slums that they cannot remove with bamboo “curtains” to hide them from view.
Honestly, it’s hard to tell from these newspaper reports just how seriously the government is taking these efforts; they obviously make for great stories, so all the papers write about them. But most have just begun, so it’s unclear what kind of resources have been committed to them.
But here’s my question: why do they even think hiding slums, beggars, and street vendors is necessary? It’s no secret to the world that India is still a poor country.
Obviously it’s hard to draw causal arrows, but don’t you think that drawings like this one below have contributed to a particular aesthetic vision for the world-class city that Delhi has openly aspired to be in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games next year? The image is taken from a government advertisement in the papers, and there are no people and only one car on an Indian road. Unless it’s 4 am, this scene is highly unrealistic – but apparently this is what the city wants.
If all the architects involved had drawn in street vendors, commuters shopping on their walk home from the train station, cycle rickshaws, in their drawings for the Games-related transport projects, then maybe we would have had a completely different kind of clean up effort. I know architects work at the whim of their clients, but drawings that look more like the one below – taken from an IIT – Delhi presentation on buses – seem to be far more in tune with their context. Shouldn’t that sensitivity be a prerequisite for every architecture graduate? And a part of professional ethics as much as following building codes and zoning regulations?