Expanding architectural practice to advance social justice: Social architecture creates equitable shelter
Architectural practice possesses potential to advance social justice. Social architecture is a movement within the profession currently employing inclusive, participatory and proactive modes of practice. Each of these modes of architectural practice was investigated alongside frameworks from sociology regarding social justice, including spatial justice, empathetic empowerment and equity. In order to synthesize these two bodies of literature, an investigation was conducted at Iowa State University in April 2013 in the form of an art exhibition. This project employed the three primary modes of the social architecture movement while exploring the meaning and social impact of "equitable shelter" through two surveys. The phrase "equitable shelter" was derived in an attempt to establish a potential output of architectural practice that could be used to evaluate whether or not architects in the emergent social architecture movement were indeed advancing social justice.
The output that emerged from the surveys concluded that "equitable shelter is an environment that ensures the safety of inhabitants and protection from the elements, acting as a gateway to the satisfaction of basic needs, self-actualization, self-expression and self-direction." This output was determined to be both a product and a system that facilitates social justice because it aligns with respected theories on the nature of social justice. The design of the exhibition employed the inclusive, participatory and proactive modes of practice espoused by the social architecture movement. The output of the exhibition, "equitable shelter," was shown to relate to the social justice frameworks of spatial justice, empathetic empowerment and equity. These relationships demonstrated that each mode of practice helps create equitable shelter and therefore social justice. The social architecture movement has expanded the profession to fulfill its potential by advancing social justice.