The "Safe Space Podcast" is an 8-part conversation series which consists of 2 preludes and 6 main episodes. We talked to 20 architects, designers, artists, human geographers, students and educators about systemic discrimination and oppression in the field of architecture, with a view to advocate for more equitable architectural education, practice and production.
The 8 roundtable conversations were curated, moderated and recorded by Safe Space Collective in collaboration with ROM for kunst og arkitektur. They were held at ROM between May and June 2021. The podcast was edited by sound engineer Xavier Guinois, with music by Fleur bleu·e.
The podcast episodes were released weekly between September and October 2021. You can now listen to the entire series across various podcast platforms by clicking on the links below.
In this first recording of Safe Space, we will introduce you to the initiative that we started together with ROM for kunst og arkitektur in the summer of 2020 in Oslo. We invited artist Gabrielle Paré and urban planner Tina Lam over to talk about the origin of the project: an attempt to create a conversation platform around diverse voices and initiatives to question the hegemony of the majority in the architectural profession. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Bui Quy Son, Paul-Antoine Lucas and Armelle Breuil, and recorded on April 10, 2021.
We welcomed Tess Skadegård Thorsen, a researcher specialized in representation across axes of oppression in Danish film, for a second Prelude where we discussed the vocabulary of representation. We first looked at a number of terminologies and their reasons for being, from ideological racism to institutional racism, from ethnicity to racialization. We also dissected the term “representation” itself into its numerous dimensions and manifestations, in an effort to understand the challenges in addressing discrimination and deconstructing ways in which “diversity” can be weaponized. In the end, we came to discuss the undeniable role of architecture, like many other creative fields, in perpetuating systems of oppression, specifically in Norway and the Scandinavian region. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective member Bui Quy Son, and recorded on May 8, 2021.
Together with architect Gary Bates and interior architect Maisam Mahdi, our conversation unfolded the substantial lack of representation in the professional practice of architecture in Norway, be it in terms of practitioner demographics, or references and peers to be inspired by. Through personal stories which reflect the current and ongoing racism, sexism and protectionism, we tackled the indifference and blindness to social injustice that render architecture an exclusive profession as opposed to its collective and humanistic roots. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Bui Quy Son and Armelle Breuil, and recorded on May 1, 2021.
Our guests this time are Tu-Uyen Phan-Nguyen, architecture student; Mikael Oscar Johansen, landscape architecture student; Nebil Zaman, artist and furniture designer; and Josina Vink, professor and researcher in design. We approached topics such as access to design and architecture education, starting from the youth’s exposure to design and artistic fields, to how differences in social and cultural capital hinder some social groups’ access to design education. We also talked about how broadening design education, thinking and practice to be more inclusive of different perspectives and references is essential to deconstructing the hegemony of the privileged majority in our profession. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Bui Quy Son and Paul-Antoine Lucas, and recorded on May 13, 2021.
We invited two generations of engaged Norwegian architects Håkon Matre Aasarød together with Else Abrahamsen and Jack Hughes to discuss the question of who we build for. While architecture is rooted in the basic human need for a dignified living space, the access to quality architecture is often determined by the background and capital of the client. By mutualizing our experiences, we argued for different ways of practicing architecture in order to challenge the status quo, and reflected on modalities and methods of how to do so. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Bui Quy Son and Armelle Breuil, and recorded on May 19, 2021.
For this conversation, we invited Ole Pedersen, social entrepreneur; Hanna Asefaw, activist and student in human geography; and Alf-Jørgen Schnell, human geographer. We stressed the urgent need for a radical shift in the way we think about housing by bringing forward the possible establishment of a not-for-profit housing sector in Norway. In a deregulated liberal housing market, the end-user is being ignored, cities’ development is completely profit-driven, and architects are the last to complain about it in public debates. Today, there is a window of opportunity for change, hence it is time we all rally and voice our opinions, and use our knowledge and skills to benefit the common good. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Paul-Antoine Lucas and Armelle Breuil, and recorded on May 21, 2021.
We invited Astrid Fadnes, architect and writer, and Joar Nango, Sámi architect and artist. We questioned the relationship between architecture and the Sápmi land as well as the environment as a whole, by examining the tourism infrastructure project Arctic Center in Northern Norway. We then discussed the impact of Statsbygg, the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property, and its ignorance of Sámi culture and local residents in general. As architecture is both a gesture of erasure and creation, we need to understand the context in which we build in order not to perpetuate environmental injustice. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Paul-Antoine Lucas and Armelle Breuil, and recorded on May 26, 2021.
As an open end to this cycle of critical dialogue and exchange, we met with three final guests including architects Eirik Stokke and Espen Heggertveit, and architect and teacher Alma Oftedal, to talk about “a queer practice of architecture” as a radically inclusive way of thinking and making in order to move toward a more equitable architecture. We delved into how to demystify the dogma and challenge the normativity in our profession through the conscious act of queering architecture. This conversation was moderated by Safe Space Collective members Bui Quy Son and Paul-Antoine Lucas, and recorded on June 2, 2021.