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Turkey Syria Widespread Building Failures Show Developing Nations (and the Rest of the World) Might Be Missing a Key Point

This week, Turkey (Turkiye) President Erdogan has been getting into hot water over a 2019 video showing him boasting about having expedited the approval process of many below-standard buildings which wound up collapsing in the country’s recent major earthquake, killing over 35,000 people in the country and in neighboring Syria.

Having observed a few parts of Istanbul on foot as recently as last autumn, I can attest to there being a wide mix of clearly well-designed world class buildings, including the impressive Istanbul International Airport terminal, along with a vast number of mostly older concrete residential buildings with little apparent means of earthquake resistance. It seems clear when there is a will, there is a way to do things right and when not, well, shit happens. I have found this is a not uncommon phenomenon throughout the world, both in developing nations like Turkey and even old cities in developed countries like the U.S., where money (and its close cousin corruption) can incentivize the “wrong” things. I place “wrong” in quotes because this is just one person’s opinion. There is plenty of evidence that seemingly counterproductive things that wind up killing people: industrial pollution, war, and side effects of approved food products and medications are acceptable collateral damage and thus “right.” When society looks at itself in the mirror, it may have to acknowledge that, at some point, maximizing financial returns took control of the steering wheel and where we’re all going is a story still being written.

This is perhaps an odd thing to mention on a business platform like LinkedIn, but you may have heard of the nation of Bhutan and their government’s Gross National Happiness Index, a metric used as a deliberate counterpoint to the Gross Domestic Product Index used by virtually every other nation worldwide. When at the scale of an extended family, or perhaps a very small outlier nation, priorities are easy to keep straight: Above all, protect life, limb, and the quality of life, because these people are your kin. Here’s hoping that we eventually come to a broader understanding of humanity insofar as we are all kin, all part of one family tree, albeit a large one. When viewed this way, why wouldn’t we want to do what’s “right” for each other over what’s only self-serving?

Albert Sawano

Albert Sawano has applied experience from over three decades working on major building projects to converge upon a design approach that sets aside traditional polarities such as functional vs. aesthetic, or architectural vs. structural, in favor of design that is holistically-approached, integrative, and synchronistic.

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