Ethics, Care, and the Architect’s Responsibility to Society and Environment
In the context of both a crisis of affordable housing and a climate and biodiversity crisis, what is the architect’s responsibility to society and the planet? New Zealand architects’ code of ethics is set out in legislation: Architects Rules 2006. These rules address the obligation of the architect to the client, and to the profession. However, beyond a requirement to uphold the law and to report on risk to public health and safety, there are no specific rules addressing the impact of architecture on future occupants, wider society, the climate, or the biosphere. Arguably, architects are legally obligated to meet the needs and goals of their clients, over any responsibility they may feel to design socially and environmentally sensitive and resilient buildings. Feminist ethics of care emphasises the importance of our relationships with others. Fundamental to care ethics is attentiveness to the needs of others who we are in relation with, and increasingly, our understanding of these relations is being extended beyond the direct relationship to a global and planetary view. Taking an ethics of care lens to the Code of Minimum Standards of Ethical Conduct for Registered Architects, we contend that these rules are inadequate to equip architects to face present and future challenges. We argue that responsible design needs to be embedded as an ethical obligation of architects. The underlying ethical framework of architects’ professional ethics should be reconsidered in relation to the needs of our society and our planet.