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Saturday, January 14, 2006

“So what does HIV/AIDS still have to do with architecture and planning?”

Well first let’s revisit what I mentioned in an earlier post concerning a re-understanding of both architecture and planning. For the purposes of this Weblog, let’s forsake current reductionist views in order to establish new paradigms in both disciplines. (Ref: What’s ANarchitecture anyway...) The AIDS virus intrinsically behaves as a self organizing system. Patterns which show the spread of infection across any region continue to be examined by NGOs in an effort to accurately predict its behavior. While there has been some success in this area, demographers and planners have failed to harness the accuracy of where and at what rate the pandemic will take hold in certain countries. Like the unpredictable spread of the disease itself, settlements emerge in direct result to an increase of infection rates. Examples of these include stigma plagued “AIDS villages” such as those we have seen in the Henan province of China. There the world has witnessed entire communities being forcibly quarantined to keep visitors out and to prevent “infected villagers” from moving freely between towns. This practice is obviously not the type of planning/policy strategy that I support. As obviously narrow as this approach may seem, I will in future posts show striking similarities between China’s practice and the US current foreign policy on HIV/AIDS containment.

Increasingly we’ve also witnessed the emergence of self generated communities as a direct result of stigmatization that in turn creates forced migration within and across societies. This is illustrated by the example of the migrant worker that is infected with HIV while away from home. Upon his return, infects his wife and is later forced leave the township or risk being an outcast. Virologically the disease reproduces infected cells within the body. Sociologically its impacts also self replicate through society. The current penal systems in the US and several countries have become one of the chief institutions in which fear and epidemics have coalesced.

More functional connections for the field of architectural design include ideas put forward a few years ago by Kevin Bingham and Rodney Harber in the AIDS brief for Architects. They outline among other things the need for transformative homes that will serve simultaneously or be easily converted into health care facilities. Large scale strategies will have to include the design of entire neighborhoods of made up of this new typology. We will continue to present ways in which these professions can exercise their obligatory response to the pandemic.


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