Four architects provided a varied perspective on the practice of architecture with a social consciousness. Philip Freelon presented a number of recent works, most notably projects related to African American culture, culminating in the upcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Julie Eizenberg spoke of the responsibility of architects to challenge the status quo with activism, even to the point of civil disobedience. She also inverted the Forum's theme by asking, "Is architecture necessary?" Andrew Freear presented a compelling picture of the current state of Auburn University's Rural Studio, convincing the audience that the program is continuing to do good work in a post-Samuel Mockbee world. ("Sambo" Mockbee is the subject of a new documentary with a world premier at SXSW and an early screening on April 1 at Virginia Tech.) Finally, Teddy Cruz made the case that architects should be designing "systems of interaction," to effect change, challenging the natural instinct to design a project (object) to address a perceived need.
It is worth noting that all of these talks were given in Richmond's Byrd Theater, a historic movie palace (complete with pipe organ) renowned for its dilapidated seats. Leg stretching breaks were important. Also, it was a little surreal to have the constant aroma of buttered popcorn present, even at 9:00 AM.