Dear Young Architect,
Greetings from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhaka has been unusually quiet for the past several months. Now I wake up to loud chirping sparrows instead of honking cars. Just a few months back none of us had any time to spend on the little things in life. Time was so precious. Now, all of a sudden, like hitting the lottery jackpot, we all have so much of it that we don’t know what to do with it. As the lockdown began, the first few weeks were rather stressful and confusing. But soon we realized that this abrupt pause in ‘business as usual’ is in for the long haul. I would like to share some thoughts that have been going through my mind for quite a while, in the hope that they may resonate with some of your concerns. My belief is that we are at a critical juncture of paradigm shift. Right before the pandemic struck, my mind was preoccupied with the idea of degrowth as a plausible alternative to healing the ecosystem. I’m not an economist, but it does not take a genius to understand why capitalism has no cap and thrives on the culture of consuming. Why are the disparity and inequity in the human condition growing when the economy is thriving? Why is it necessary to maintain exponential growth that is depleting the Earth, causing an existential crisis of humans and other species? The dominant paradigm has evidently failed to ensure balance and requires critical revision.

‘The building industry has actively
participated in the growth fetish’

A week before we went into lockdown I gave a lecture to students at North South University where I talked about affluenza and similar socially transmitted conditions. In my opinion the culture of consumption that has plagued the entire world for decades is a greater pandemic than Covid-19. Physiological emergencies, sooner or later, and permission. But the culture of spending and greed requires much deeper mental conditioning and the reorientation of our living and thinking patterns. This is a much greater challenge and may take a few generations to reform.

It is obvious that your generation, who will live and decide the fate of human existence and the habitability of other species on Earth, has a huge responsibility and task at hand. It is up to you to restore the values that were abandoned by decades of consuming. At times, to move ahead it’s necessary to step back, pause and think. I believe we are experiencing that moment of pause.

‘We need a generation of architects who can
resist the temptation of the visual realm’

The building industry has actively participated in the growth fetish. The damage done to the ecosystem requires repair. The depleted resources of the Earth need to heal and be replenished. We need a generation of architects who do not indulge in the madness of
building but take part in repair. We need a generation of architect s who can resist the temptation of the visual realm. We need a generation of architects who know how to stitch together fragmented societies. We need a generation of architects who can build bridges and not walls. We need a generation of architects who do not aspire to stardom but connect to
the Earth.

I am of the opinion that the irst few decades of the 21st century need to be the phase I call ‘RE’. I am hopeful that the pause of 2020 will help us to rethink and re-evaluate our actions, to revisit, recall, research and reconnect with the age-old wisdoms to reorient, reinstall, revise our living patterns by reuse, reduce, repair, recycle, repurpose through a process of regression and resistance in order to re-establish the balance to reassure our existence.

Dhaka, Bangladesh
5 August 2020