Architecture – the responsible art
Architecture is the most difficult art to conceive since it carries a lot of responsibility – an architect isn’t in charge only of creating something beautiful, but of enhancing or supporting life. Architecture should be created with respect for all possibilities, such as earthquakes, fires or floods.
I consider it vital to discuss about the importance of fire safety in architecture – yes, it may cost us design-wise. It may not be something we feel like taking into consideration when creating our architectural masterpieces. It may be mostly the job of the fire engineers. But it is, in the end, one of the most vital parts of a building – it can be the element which saves us from tragic events.
It would be too much to try and create a “short version” of the fire regulation rules. However, I will mention here the importance of using fire protection materials, of working with teams of experts and of being malleable towards bending our designs in order to be fully prepared in case of fire.
Starting with Ancient Rome, the cities were optimized for fire protection reasons, using methos such as space separation and non-combustible building materials. In 1903, the Armour Institute of Technology has created the first fire protection engineering programme. In 1918 the UK has initiated the Institution of Fire Engineers, while the USA founded the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in 1950, promulgating the standards for fire protection.
Few countries apart from the United States constantly update fire safety regulations and most do not consider fire engineering a specific branch – this is where our responsibility as architects comes into use. I advise all architects and architecture students to read about the Active and Passive Fire Protection, which stipulates rules regarding Fire suppression, Sprinkler systems, Fire detection and Hypoxic air fire prevention.
Romania has currently declared 3 days of national mourning, due to a tragedy provoked by poor design. Architecture should give life, not take it away. I am asking all architects around the world to create responsible design, and most of all I am asking for us to fight for the guarantee of the fire safety rules to be respected – no more “what are the chances”, no more “it won’t happen to me”. It is our duty as architects not only to build responsibly or to educate the public, but to try and make sure that everything revolving the structures we create or that have already been created are not a danger to the general public.