The Microgeographies of Social Justice: Architect(ture) and Social Housing

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Mahvash, Kourosh
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This paper outlines the preliminary framework for the author’s doctoral studies in urban planning, which aims to be an academic critique and investigation of the role of architecture, as a practice, and architects, as professionals, in the current status of social housing development. Based on an evolving and expanding literature review, the discussions are framed in three broader categories of ‘premise’, ‘context’ and ‘investigation’. The study would be primarily premised on the notions of the necessity of decommodification of housing and Lefebvre’s “Right to the City”. Within such preliminary and broad conceptual framework, the study then proposes positioning the research within its socio-political and architectural contexts. While the former is represented by neoliberalism, the currently predominant ideology and driving force behind the majority of governments’ decisions and policies all over the world, the latter limits the study to social housing as the architectural manifestation of social justice in the contemporary city. For further contextualization as well as proper–feasible–examination of how state policies have evolved, social housing development and government’s attitudes towards it would be examined more thoroughly in the Canadian context. The Canadian case study would delineate how capitalist and neoliberal ideologies have been applied in a geographically and socio-politically specific context. To complete the roadmap for the study, it is then proposed to critically investigate the role of architects and architecture in the process of social housing production. The hypothesis is that architectural practice is so tightly entangled with capital that architects have been reduced to mere facilitators of the neoliberal modes of production of space and, in doing so, have knowingly or unwittingly deprived architecture from being a powerful aesthetic, experiential and morphological tool for the manifestation and embodiment of social justice in the city.
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