When to say no

Galaxy SOHO by Zaha Hadid
Image courtesy of 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia
via Flickr
I just read this excellent article from Architectural Record: "The Architect's Dilemma: When to Say No"

I don't pretend to agree with everything in this article (in fact, most of my concerns were articulated nicely in a comment posted by Lewis2522 on 6/4/2014 11:29 PM CDT) but the questions it raises are ones you don't hear often enough.
And, they are COMPLEX questions, perhaps without satisfyingly clean answers.  But the questions are important to pose.

Regardless of what field you are in (or will be in), it is important for all of us to review the ethics of our business choices, for our own souls as much as for the rest of the world.

Offshore Construction

Bullwinkle platform being towed out to sea
past Port Aransas, Texas
Image courtesy of Jay Phagan via Flickr
For a time when I was growing up, my daddy supervised offshore construction in the Gulf of Mexico. From time to time, someone would die. It was devastating for our small community when it happened, and devastating to Dad who felt like it was his fault for not somehow preparing better.  It was very dangerous work, with unbelievably tall platforms and underwater welding and everyone knew it was dangerous work before they signed on.

In a "free" country like ours, you might say it was advisable to get different work.  The whole time I was growing up in the South, the economy struggled along, and there were not a whole lot of career choices for the majority of blue collar folk.  Most breadwinners chose between fishing (you eat like a king but have little money) or working offshore and making good money as long as they were strong enough to do it.

We're Better than Them?

"Laborer with Fall Protection - San Francisco, California"
Greg Younger, via Flickr
In America, we rather pride ourselves on OSHA and our other safety standards that reduce death and injury rates in a variety of jobs* compared to some other countries. But we do not eliminate them.
An architect friend of mine, when working in Venezuela several years ago, lamented the high number of workers who had died constructing her last building.  She was sad about it, but felt that it was entirely out of her control... that's just the way things work.
*rates are different for each job: construction comes in third by industry in the U.S.

Where Do you Draw the Line?

"Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel
beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site
of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center."
Image courtesy of daily sunny via Flickr
Should we refuse to ever do anything that might be the catalyst for injury to another?  If the answer is no, then never get in a car again. Don't buy a TV or a computer monitor.  Don't let children play on a playground.  Don't ever speak to another human being.  Hmm, perhaps that's going too far?

Accidents happen, and they are terrible when they do.  Where is the line that you draw between

  1. taking no action, &
  2. taking part in activities that might possibly hurt someone else?
I hope none of us ever have to decide what is an acceptable number of deaths associated with our business!


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