Patrik vs. Pritzker: Schumacher Reignites the Debate Over Political Correctness in Architecture

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

The biggest architectural news of the week has been followed by an inevitable retort from one of the most polarizing figures in the Profession. Responding to the announcement that Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena is this year’s Pritzker Laureate, Patrik Schumacher — the outspoken Partner at Zaha Hadid Architects — lamented what he believes is a “mutation” of the Pritzker Prize into a humanitarian design award. Schumacher believes this is symptomatic of a politically correct wave flowing over architects, encapsulating a “lack of confidence, vitality and courage” for the Profession at large.

Alejandro Aravena of Elemental (left) and Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects

With Aravena set to curate this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, Schumacher’s comments look likely to spark a year-long debate about the priorities of architects — and encourage plenty of discussion about the power of public interest design for a Profession often accused of catering to the elite. Here is Schumacher’s Facebook post in full:

“The PC takeover of architecture is complete: Pritzker Prize mutates into a prize for humanitarian work. The role of the architect is now ‘to serve greater social and humanitarian needs’ and the new Laureate is hailed for ‘tackling the global housing crisis’ and for his concern for the underprivileged. Architecture loses its specific societal task and responsibility, architectural innovation is replaced by the demonstration of noble intentions and the discipline’s criteria of success and excellence dissolve in the vague do-good-feel-good pursuit of ‘social justice’.

“I respect [what] Alejandro Aravena is doing and his ‘half a good house’ developments are an intelligent response. However, this is not the frontier where architecture and urban design participate in advancing the next stage of our global high-density urban civilization. I would not object to this year’s choice half as much if this safe and comforting validation of humanitarian concern was not part of a wider trend in contemporary architecture that in my view signals an unfortunate confusion, bad conscience, lack of confidence, vitality and courage about the discipline’s own unique contribution to the world.”

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