Wouter Vanstiphout – Blame the Architect

Lecture date: 2011-02-03

Blame the Architect: On the relationship between urban planning, architecture, culture and urban violence

After the riots in the French banlieues of 2005, fingers were pointed at the architects and planners responsible for the high-rise suburbs as the culprits behind the alienation, the poverty and ultimately the violence erupting around French cities. Just as 20 years earlier in Broadwater Farm, even Le Corbusier himself was blamed for the street fights that took place. Does architectural form have the power to change people’s behaviour in such violent ways as some critics would have you believe? Are these riots insurrections against oppression, or are they part of a culture of violence, that uses modern urban spaces as its theatrical backdrop? Who is to blame? The system, the rioter, the architect?

Wouter Vanstiphout is part of Crimson Architectural Historians. He is professor of Design and Politics at the Faculty of Architecture at Delft Technical University. He has (co)authored books including Mart Stams Trousers, Stories from behind the scenes of Dutch Moral Modernism (Rotterdam 1999), Too Blessed to Be Depressed Crimson Architectural Historians 1994–2002 and The Big WiMBY! Book Future , Past and Present of a New Town (Rotterdam 2007). From 2000 to 2007 he and Crimson directed the urban transformation project of the Dutch New Town of Hoogvliet.

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