21st Century Architect’s!

21st Century Architect’s!

“My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.” Muhammad Yunus

Am I an Architect? Do I strongly believe in myself as an Architect? What is the mindset of 21st century Architect’s? What actually is 21st century architecture? Is it still just to design buildings, landscapes and interiors? Is it about creativity, innovation or working with people? Is it about influencing the society to understand the meaning of ‘living’ rather than just designing their accommodation? Is it about being visionary and empowering human being with that vision? Is it about being a pioneer?

Between October 8 and 11 2014, all these questions were answered by one of the greatest minds of our time the Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus. “It is all about our mind set”, he said. “Architect, the professionals who can change the world”, he highlighted in all his speeches.

Sydney Opera House (9 October 2014) – Questions and Answers Session – Professor Muhammad Yunus and Farhadur Reza

1. Sydney Opera House (9 October 2014) – Questions and Answers Session – Professor Muhammad Yunus and Farhadur Reza

Professor Yunus challenged our mindset by delivering key note speeches at Focusing People’s Architecture, an international conference and exhibition in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne organised by the Bangladeshi Architects in Australia (BaA) (http://baa-arch.org/) in association with the Institute of Architects Bangladesh and the Australian Institute of Architects (NSW Chapter). He shared his thoughts, philosophies and way forward for his unique concepts on microfinance and social business to complement affordable housing, social empowerment, and economic entrepreneurship including building long term financial and social entrepreneurship.

This was a continuation of the series of seminars and exhibitions hosted by the BaA and AIA over last five years. The last three events were hosted in Sydney (2008) – ‘Architectural Excellence in Bangladesh’, ‘Sharing Our Achievements’ in Canberra (2011) and Bringing Architects Together’ in Melbourne (2012). The successful Melbourne event gave us the confidence to present world Architects along with global leaders in 2014, to debate globalised market demand for 21st century Architects to complement the need for world population. How Architects can play significant role by influencing global policies? How Architects can work side by side with people and for the people? How Architecture can support and enhance people’s quality of life globally? How Architects can lead towards an environmentally sustainable world?

The purpose of these events was to:

  • • raise the profile of Architectural excellence in Bangladesh;
  • • create opportunities for Architects from Bangladesh calling Australia home;
  • • share works of Bangladeshi Architects and Australian Architects;
  • • reinforce the ongoing relationship between the Bangladeshi Architects in Australia, the Australian Institute of Architects and the Institute of Architects Bangladesh; and
  • • explore opportunities to challenge our limits rather than to limit our challenges.

1. Australian Institute of Architects, NSW Chapter Auditorium (10 October 2014) – (from left to right) Roslyn Irons, David Holms, Iftekhar Abdullah, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Farhadur Reza

These seminars and exhibitions also worked as catalysts to generate ideas and some of these knowledge and experiences has been used to benefit both Bangladesh and Australia. This year, the event was one of the most significant gatherings of leaders and Architects in Australia to challenge traditional myths surrounding Architecture and to explore the nucleus of its creative aspirations. Architecture from the dawn of civilization and diversification in the works of Architects inspired this profession to act as social activists, masters of creativity and leaders in innovation.

These aspirations were directly complemented by Muhammad Yunus’s vision. His vision is the total eradication of poverty from the world. ‘Grameen’, he claims, ‘is a message of hope, a programme for putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long’.

In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, Grameen was awarded the Aga Khan Award For Architecture in 1989 for designing and operating Grameen Bank Housing Programme for the poor. This helped poor members of Grameen Bank to construct 60,000 housing units, each costing on an average $300. Grameen also received “The King Baudouin International Development Prize 1992” for its recognition of the role of women in development of rural areas. It also had the “World Habitat Award: 1997” by Building and Social Housing Foundation. Since speaking at Focusing People’s Architecture, the Nobel laureate Professor Yunus addressed as chief guest at the celebration of fourth anniversary of social enterprise UK held at the British parliament building to celebrate the occasion of Social Enterprise Day on November 20 2014. Professor Yunus congratulated the Houses of Parliament for their support for social enterprises.

Professor Yunus has delivered six key note speeches in Australia this time including one at the Federal Government Department of Social Services, Dinner in Canberra hosted by the BaA, a lunch time lecture in Sydney, key note speech at the Sydney Opera House, speech at the Institute of Architects (NSW Chapter) and finally at the Monash University in Melbourne. Everyone who attended at least one of his speeches were empowered so much that they started to ‘re-think’ their own profession from a ‘21st century perspective’ including the members of the architect community.

Australian Institute of Architects, Sydney (10 October 2014) – Professor Muhammad Yunus with the Bangladeshi Architects in Australia (BaA) Members.

To complement the presence of such an inspirational idol and the spirit of ‘thinking outside the traditional mindset’ the BaA launched two flagship projects during this visit of Professor Yunus:

  1. Social Business and Affordable Housing in Bangladesh; and
  2. Housing Guide to Complement Cultural Capital in Australia.

BaA is pursuing actively to deliver positive outcomes for these projects within next two years. In addition, few Australian Architects became interested to work in Bangladesh outside their comfort zones to challenge their own mindset and to improve the living conditions of some of the village communities in remote Bangladesh.

It was a life-time opportunity to spend few days with the Nobel Laureate and share his wisdom. The five things we will treasure for rest of our life from his companionship to redefine our mindset of 21st century Architecture are:

  • • be humble;
  • • work to solve a problem;
  • • work with/for the people whose life you would like to improve;
  • • have a big dream but start small; and
  • • it is never late to be an entrepreneur.

We all knew that his close presence will influence us and the way we think. But never thought of this ‘tsunami’ of thought provocative ideas will hit us with sense of accountabilities. The week was a life-changing experience for all of us. We wish we had this opportunity 10 years ago! But again, as he said, ‘it is never late’.

I believe, after listening to Professor Yunus, we call ourselves an architect more loudly. We believe, we will remain as an Architect till the day we die. If there is opportunity in the ‘life after’ to call ourselves an Architect we will do so again. Once you are an Architect, you are an Architect for ever. We became the Architect without the bindings of traditional architecture! We are now social activist, community capacity builder with new set of spirits and values. The 21st century Architect’s.

“Civilization has given us enormous successes: going to the moon, technology. But then this is the civilisation that took us to debt, environmental crisis, every single crisis. We need a civilization where we say goodbye to these things.” Muhammad Yunus

Farhad Reza

  • Member – Bangladeshi Architects in Australia (BaA)
  • Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Urban and Regional Planning

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