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Why are some big projects still risky?
The Negroni Talks are back! We're kicking off with a new series on morals (or lack thereof) in the built environment.
Construction has always been a dangerous (read: corrupt) game and it seems that the bigger the project, the greater the risks to workers’ safety. Fatalities on building sites were maybe to be expected in the dim and distant past, but in the 21st century haven’t we developed sufficient machinery and digital technologies to rule out death by architecture?
This debate has resurfaced recently as some (football) players and activists have urged a boycott of the Qatar 2022 World Cup because of the treatment of migrant workers, who have been plunged into a form of contemporary slavery, with little regard for their lives.
Zaha Hadid famously stated that architects have "nothing to do with the workers" despite a series of exposes in recent years and accusations of cover-ups about the scale of building site mortality rates. More broadly the profession seems to claim ignorance and deny knowledge of scandals like the one surrounding the construction site of Istanbul Airport being dubbed ‘the cemetery’, whilst enjoying the publicity that these projects bring them.
This begs a question over who is responsible? What is the role of the architectural profession when it comes to worker safety and where do you draw the line as the designer of a building that causes hundreds or thousands of deaths? Shouldn’t architects publicly denounce their clients when they are seen to have suspect or is keeping quiet in order to help secure work more important?