Reading this issue of AIArchitect, a number of things come to mind. Tom Fisher talks of the greater responsibility that interns today will face in the near future as global warming and conflict become backyard issues here in the U.S. We already have real, deadly threats overseas and potential ones, including a looming influenza epidemic. And, yet, all of this—for the vast majority of people in this country—has some distance to it. Architects are renowned for their intuitive ability to step into the shoes of others and imagine a better future. So, what about these Swords of Damocles?
Most people who have had a close experience with a national or international news event are struck by how the everyday nuance that made so much sense yesterday—or wasn't really a matter of consideration—all of the sudden becomes the subject of intense scrutiny by millions of strangers.
To get some historic perspective, read the 1665 diary of Samuel Pepys—the year of the last great bubonic plague epidemic in London. Peppered among the man's droning on of daily business are the increasingly frantic and personal accounts of casualty figures, people fleeing the city, and relatives and friends afflicted and to be avoided. Then cool weather arrives, it's over, and everything returns to normal (until the Great Fire the next year, which gives Sir Christopher Wrenn his tragic yet great rebuilding opportunities). It's an immediately human perspective; not one remembered by the longer vision of history.
Focus now on the possibility of an influenza epidemic. Currently, we are reading stories about a series of micro concerns. We have a lack of hospital beds, we're told, a lack of vaccination capability, or—in the news section of this week's issue—a lack of force majeure provisions covering workforce-related project delays. All of these are certainly worthy of serious, serious consideration. But is it the best we can do given—in this one instance—the extreme suffering that a flu pandemic will (literally) bring home?
What do you think?