Is the design of a disaster relief shelter motivated by the architect’s intent to feed their own ego? Should this self-interest even matter if the architectural design serves the needs of the vulnerable people who need these shelters?

The Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation is organising a panel discussion tomorrow in Sydney on the topic ‘The Ethics of Emergency Architecture: Do Motives Matter?’. Presented in collaboration with The Ethics Centre, the discussion will be moderated by the executive director of The Ethics Centre, Dr Simon Longstaff AO. The rest of the three-person panel will include Beck Dawson, the chief resilience officer for City of Sydney, and David Sanderson, professor and Judith Neilson chair in architecture at the University of NSW.

The Ethics of Emergency Architecture: Do Motives Matter?

Most discussions of architecture are largely focused on its aesthetic character, and less on the ethical dimension of the work produced or the ethical approach of the architects who conceptualised it. If an architectural design has achieved its purpose, should one call into question the motives of the architects?

A number of architects worldwide have contributed their skills, time and talent to disaster relief and recovery programs, with the aim of improving the circumstances of affected populations. For instance, these architects package hope in the form of shelters and homes for some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

What if this creative response is driven by the ego of the architect? Should this self-interest matter at all if the objectives of the architectural work are satisfactorily met? Is the work less deserving of praise, and the architect less worthy of admiration?

The panel discussion will take place tomorrow, Thursday 8 June from 6pm to 8pm at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. Last-minute tickets are still available via Eventbrite.