Start main page content

Built environment bears two sides of responsibilities

- By Wits University

Professor Paul Jenkins, Head of the School of Architecture and Planning, has asked the graduates in the built environment to remember their duties to society and the profession as they embark on their new paths.

The built environment is seen as crucial in meeting some of the fundemental needs of society, therefore, those who go on to practice in the industry must display a high level of social and ethical conduct as they discharge their duties, said Jenkins.

There is a “need to act in a professionally responsible and socially responsible manner. Not all professions achieve the latter and some in fact do not seek to achieve that at times.

“This is a challenge for the professions (and we must) look on these two sides of responsibility - which is not only on the narrow definition of the professional responsibility but in a much wider and encompassing definition of social responsibility.”

Although Jenkins made no direct reference to the construction cartels in South Africa, his address had relevance to the graduates who will one day lead the built environment/construction sector. Fifteen construction firms were collectively fined R1.46 billion for collusive tendering by the Competition Commission last year after investigations into the sector proved that unlawful practices was wide spread.

Cautioning against arrogance, Jenkins urged the graduates to "continue to be open to professional and practice-based reflection and not assume that the knowledge from university is what you need to work with.”

“Many others in wider society have forms of relevant and valid knowledge that you need to make what happens happen in the built environment.”

Click to listen to his speech delivered on Friday, 4 April 2014 at the graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

About  Professor Paul  Jenkins

Professor Jenkins is an architect, planner and social researcher who has worked on a wide range of aspects in the built environment including architecture, construction, housing, planning and urban studies.

This has included professional practice, policy-making, teaching, training and research with a variety of private sector, non-governmental, local and central government, international aid and community-based organisations, as well as academic institutions.

More than half of his four decade career has been based in Central and Southern Africa. However has served as Professor for Architecture Research at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in the University of Edinburgh and as Professor of Human Settlements in the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University.

He has also served as a Visiting Professor at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, the University of Sao Paulo, as well as the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits University.

Professor Jenkins is widely published sub-Saharan African urban issues, with many academic journal papers to his name, as well as a series of more globally focused books. Some of his books include Architecture, Participation and Society; Housing and Planning in the Rapidly Urbanising World; Urban development and civil society: the role of communities in sustainable cities, and most recently Urbanization, urbanism and urbanity: home spaces and house cultures. He is currently working on a book titled Order and disorder in urban space and form.

His current research focuses on the nature of knowledge and the role of socio-cultural values in architecture and urban development, challenging dominant conceptions of modernity, modernism and modernisation. His most recent research in the African region has been the international, multidisciplinary programme entitled Home space in the African city. Professor Jenkins continues to practice as an architect in southern Africa, and has been implementing a research by design architecture project in Maputo since October 2012.