Social Justice

When I first heard about “Social Justice” I had no idea what the phrase meant.  I have a lot of lawyers in my family, so I thought it was tied to the law in some way.  Research on the subject has turned up some interesting websites.

The first architect I read about was Antonio Ismael Risianto.  He was “born in Amsterdam, Holland. Graduated from UC Berkeley in 1976 (Masters Arch) and continued at MIT under the MAAS on Housing and Human Settlement Design for Developing Countries Post Graduate Program” (

His focus on social justice has taken him to Jakarta.  With the history of flooding and the prediction of rising waters due to global warming, Risianto designed a Floating Market.  Normally, when the waters rise, the poor are forced to leave their livelihoods to seek higher ground.  What Risianto is proposing, is that the market be placed on floating platforms, so that no matter the weather, the poor, who sell items at the sea’s edge, will not have to leave their shops.  I am intrigued by the way Risianto turned what is seen as a calamity into a solution that would be a win-win situation for the locals.


Antonio Ismael Risianto. (2008, February 4). Retrieved July 25, 2011, from

Indonesia “Social justice by design, Architect Antonio Ismael Risianto promotes planning for the urban poor Yahyasheikho786′s Blog. (2009, October 19). Retrieved July 25, 2011, from

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Social Justice

  1. Camilla Waston says:

    I have heard of this project before and I thought it was an amazing idea. In this case social justice is linked to sustainability. Due to overpopulation and pollution, there is a shortage of resources and drastic climate change affects the livelihood of many people, especially in impoverished areas of the world. The floating market design is a way to address the environmental changes that continue to occur as well as allow the lives and financial stability of its users to remain unaffected.

  2. Brody Shores says:

    You bring up a great point here, Frankie. “Social Justice” has different meanings in different circles of our economy, and just the differing meaning of “justice” has disrupted governments and religions all over the world. To some, “social justice” calls for an equal right by all individuals, of any social class, to have the same opportunities (in most case for education or jobs), but to many, many others it is a call for an “equal outcome” for all. This deals more with a distribution of wealth across on social classes, and thus feeds the WELFARE monster. This latter idea of “social justice” does not help people help themselves. It only promotes them to stick a hand out.

    The project by Risianto is a great example of true “social justice”. A group of individuals is being affected by the actions of all people around the world, and this project helps to counteract those effects, and allows them to continue to have the opportunity to earn a living.

    Chris Reply:

    Brody you bring up a great point of designing to promote self sufficiency! So often we look at how to simply “help” those that are less fortunate instead of looking at creating a cycle that promotes them to help themselves. Sometimes people simply need assistance to achieve an optimum design solution instead of designer arrogance that WE know best. If as designers we can be sympathetic to our clients needs without overstating the obvious and worse assuming the nonexistent, then we have won half the battle. Wonderful insight Brody.

  3. Bonnie Casamassima says:

    You bring up a wonderful point, Brody. To me, social justice in design helps empower people to empower themselves. Often times, projects of this nature actually involve the end-user throughout the design and implementation process. Not only does this allow the end-user to become truly invested in the projects, but it also allows them to be knowledgeable on the process of their creation. This allows the end-user to easily transition into becoming involved with other local projects in their community. I believe this cycle is a main contributor to the recent rapid growth of this area of design. With this continued process, we can reach the other 99% of our population who can greatly benefit from our industry’s services.

  4. Tariq says:

    First, I want to thank you for this interesting topic because it’s the first time i hear of this project, and I think it’s really true how poor people are suffering mostly from riches people actions.

    Reading this article made think that incase if we don’t reduce the amount of harmful waste we produce, which is the main cause of global warming, we may have to come up with ideas for floating houses and even floating cities. So maybe after a while, global warming will be directly affecting rich people before the poor ones.

    Frankie Ware Reply:

    And after all the arguing that our own government has been involved in for the past few months, it’s apparent that the “rich” rule. I think there is hope out there, but it will have to be from a secular nature without government intervention to succeed.

    Tariq Reply:

    definitely Frankie. The government only cares about rich people’s standard of living, but as you mentioned; there is hope out there, and in my opinion; we, as designers, can contribute in this hope by offering more of pro bono designs that support less fortunate people.

    LeslieHo Reply:

    There are ready hundreds of concepts on floating cities / structures and underwater housing / hotels proposed by students and professionals. Architects and engineers have been building structures into the sea for decades. A recent example might be the 26-mile Jiaozhou bridge of China. I believe that due to shortage of land caused by rising of sea level and growing of population, human will one day be forced to build out onto the oceans.

    Tariq Reply:

    Leslie, I definitely agree with you, especially after watching the video about the islands they are building on the shores of the great city Dubai. But of course in this case, they’re building them as luxurious resorts and apartments for rich people

    Here is the link for so everybody can see it:

    Frankie Ware Reply:

    OK, Tariq, that video on building The World cannot be ecologically viable. I mean, they are changing the shape of the ocean floor. Somethings gotta give. Mother Nature does not like to be tampered with.
    On the other hand, the video of the buildings that are using the latest technology to stay cool while harnessing wind and solar power was seriously cool. I like the way they used vernacular architecture in a new way.

    Tariq Reply:

    Frankie, as you said mother nature doesn’t like to be tampered with, but after spending that amount of money on that project, i don’t think they’re going to stop until they do it successfully.

  5. Chris says:

    I adore this project and think it strikes at the very heart of what social justice is all about! Social justice is about justice for ALL! Without thinking universally about a problem and all the peoples involved there is no justice. My favorite aspect to this project is how it takes into account nature’s impact on the built environment, specifically those forces that are beyond anyone’s real control, i.e. the ocean tides. Great example of implementing a synthetic harmony between nature and architecture.

  6. LeslieHo says:

    While I was reading this posting, the nature of this project reminds me of the charity work for Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China), which was conducted by a group of architectural student from the Chinese University Hong Kong. In Maosi village of China, a constant flooding stream was separating the local villagers to nearby schools and other facilities. By identifying this problem, the students and tutors had worked jointly to design a bridge using local materials such as pebbles, stones and bamboo. The group spent the length of their summer holiday to construct the bridge and connect with the local culture. This project was very successful in terms of helping the locals to migrate freely hence withstanding floods and freezing weather. Annually, Hong Kong and Mainland volunteers still works closely with this charity foundation to provide construction aid to the people in need. – Gallery (Maosi village project)

    Frankie Ware Reply:

    Those are some amazing photos! It looks like the caissons are made of bamboo? It’s amazing what people can do when driven to help. Thanks for sharing.

    LeslieHo Reply:

    The arc shape handrails are made out bamboo, where two ends of the bamboo strips are fixed onto the bridge.

    Tariq Reply:

    wow, I love the idea of creating it without the help of their government and by interacting with the local culture needs.

  7. Maiss says:

    From point of view, I think that this project is great from all its aspects. Nevertheless, when we come to think of applying what is being called a Floating Market, we also need to study it financially wise; especially when applying it in poor countries.

    Tariq Reply:

    Maiss, considering the environmental issues we are facing these days, such as global warming and lack of natural resources, we’ll reach a point that we won’t have a choice except of accepting the fact that we are drowning, and we have to come up with solutions no matter of the cost in order for all people on this planet to survive.