What is a 'Community Architect'?:
Perception and Perspectives

Sakarin Pu, Architect & Faculty at Mahasarakham University

Making physical improvements to your house is like changing your clothes...you don't think differently in your new clothes; you just look different.

As architects, we should concentrate less on getting the houses done, and more on getting people to organize into groups. Once we have strong working groups, the people would find ways to get things done themselves.

Architecture is just one of the 'tools' for the organizer. When we talk about 'tools' we tend to put too much emphasis on the 'process' and its form. We tend to become attached to a particular tool or process simply because it is a well established tradition. Like having the squatters participate by building paper architectural model together etc. It looks good as a process. But when you have a community that is about to kill off one another - like the Wat Lueung Commune - we can't just sit back and allow the usual "process" to run its course. Where is the common ground? The community and its politics moves and changes all the time, so our tools cannot be fixed - they must be tailored specifically to a particular point in time.

There's no fixed formula. We cannot say that for such and such community, use step 1-4 in this process; for such and such community use this process. The process doesn't always exist in a linear fashion. In each community, you may need a different process. For example, for a certain community you may need to skip the usual steps and present the architectural 'vision' first. For another community, you may need to first get the kids excited about redesigning their community, so the adults will naturally follow suite. A squatter community that was destroyed by arson would have a very complex rebuilding process; you cannot just go in and use the usual architectural 'function diagrams' or 'zoning' methods.

It's a back and forth process. And it all depends on a particular situation and timing. We must build 'tools' or process from facts. And these are to be found specifically in each community at a particular point in time.