Justice and Architecture or The Ethical Function of Architecture

Directed by Julio Bermudez, Professor, School of Architecture and Planning

The Catholic University of America


The best examples of architecture are buildings that transcend. By this, we mean structures that go well beyond successfully responding to functional, economic, sustainable, contextual, cultural, and symbolic expectations. Aesthetics is perhaps the most obvious ways to attain such goal. In beauty, we may find the ineffable or immeasurable as great architects and philosophers have pointed out. But there is more to architectural transcendence than aesthetics, a path that, many would argue, is plagued with pitfalls leading to irresponsible hedonism, subjectivism, and escapism. Architecture in service of an ethical practice, while more horizontal and immanent than its aesthetic sister, may be a much wiser choice. After all, the pursuit of the good is the most direct and compassionate way not only to help others, nature, or the world but also to reach God as architect professor Michael Benedikt claims in his book “God is the good we do” (2007). 

The issue of ethics acquires particular currency in our days, where issues of social, economic, environmental, and racial justice have become increasingly visible and therefore unavoidable to address.

This semester’s lecture series will focus on the ethical ‘function’ of architecture, as Yale philosophy Professor Karsten Harries, puts it. More specifically, we will consider Justice and Architecture.

What does it mean to pursue JUSTICE in architecture? How do the various spatial and socio-cultural dimensions of the built environment contribute to healing, compassion, and equity? Is empathy important? Can architecture foster peace-making? Where do you stand ethically in front of today’s challenges and what are you going to do about it? How does spirituality enter your architectural practice? What does racial, economic, environmental, and social justice look architecturally? What does it mean to profess architecture today?

Our four speakers will address these and other questions and issues from four different perspectives, practices, and life experiences.

  • Soulful Reckonings: Space * Place * Time * Justice

    Monday, September 13 at 5 PM.
    Guest Lecture: Jane C. Edmonds, Founding Partner at Jane's Way, Oak Bluffs, Mass.



  • Peace Architecture: Design for Healing and Connection

    Monday, September 20 at 5 PM
    2021 Walton Critic Lecture: Trey Trahan, Founder and CEO of Trahan Architects, New Orleans and New York City.

    This event was not recorded but you can read more about the event clicking on the button below.




  • On Learning: Revelation, Continuity, and Change

    Monday, October 18 at 5 PM
    Guest Lecture: John A. Kett, Managing Principal, Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture, Cambridge, Mass.

    Lecture poster

  • Spatialized Psychologies of Inequity

    Monday, November 1 at 5 PM
    Guest Lecture: April de Simone, Co-founder and Managing principal at Spatial Forensics, New York City

    lecture poster