A reflection on an essay that ‘shocked me to thought’

by shydes

The Killing Fields of Inequality, Therborn, G (2012)

Being an architect student in the 80s, at Lund’s University, changed my perspectives upon the world. I understood that, as an architect I was responsible for how people manage their everyday life. Bad architecture, with unclear structures where you can’t find your way, with unpleasant surfaces where you don’t feel welcome are made by architects as well as the good architecture. Good or bad architecture is not black and white as we are all different and have different needs at different times.

As a practicing architect I tried to get the hours in a project, by negotiate with client and manager, so I could work close to the people who were going to use the facilities. When the process went well, it was amazing to see the building standing there with the vision from our collaboration. A vision that had delimitations due to money, understanding between workers and manager etc, but still a vision that came true.

In the same time the society took a new direction. 70s became 80s and countries were supposed to be run as companies; UK with Thatcher, US with Reagan. The capitalistic system was taken for granted by every political party, from right to left. In the building sector it became more important to gain money than to build a society.

When I started to work within academia, 2005, as a senior lecturer I was told that I was too political. As an educator I worked with students in city areas with migrants and segregation. Discussed inequality in the world and how we segregate people. It was to political for some colleagues.

To read Göran Therborn made me feel less alone in academy. There was research that supported that we all live longer and better lives in a more equal world (It may have started with Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, but Göran Therborn made it even more clear to me). Today I have many colleagues and students that share the struggle against inequality. Between 2011 and 2015 we remade our educations in design at Linnaeus University. https://lnu.se/linneuniversitetet/Organisation/fakulteten-for-konst-och-humaniora/mot-fakulteten/design/

We explore together with students how we can become change agents. Design can be part of building sustainable futures. Papanek said: “There are few professions more harmful than industrial design.” Design can make change! Göran Therborn has definitely helped me to explore what a designer and a design education can do.