How to: not become a “developer”

Detail from an illustration from Natural Disasters: The birth of Homo Dolarensis © Manuel Ignacio Nesta

The figure of the developer-architect has risen triumphantly at the same time as many architects feel powerless. Liberated from the obligation to say yes to every demand and able to offer more than a sales pitch to clients shopping for a building, the developer-architect works with investors who purchase space. These professional amalgams appear to have increasing agency to shape buildings and therefore (more importantly) more power position within capitalist processes of spatial production. But with this agency comes twice the burden: these amalgams must satisfy the conventions of both finance and architecture. In a society in which control of economic resources depends on the exertion of power over other people and the environment, it is only natural to attempt to climb the pyramid. But is it even more important to subvert the pyramid? If we don’t redefine what a developer can be, the architect might be just swapping roles while the world gets a little warmer and more cut-throat.

Part fantasy and part survival strategy, the architect-developer emerges as a new profession in today’s world. For architects curious about making a transition with a real improvement in ethics, there is some fear they could end up producing the same profit-hungry buildings just with nicer detailing. We think it could be helpful to investigate already existing ways of not becoming the person you used to hate (at least in public). Such an investigation requires confronting different definitions and powers of “developers” in various domains, including law, finance, precedent and practice, support and competition, that vary greatly around the world. This residency will concern itself primarily with the figure of the developer-architect as seen from the perspective of architects.

Participants will begin by speaking with architects who have transformed into developers (publicly or secretly) in order to better understand why they chose to make the transition and what the new role allows them to do or not to do. These professionals will challenge our ideas of what an architect-developer can be and force use to ask ourselves if non-extractive models of practice are even possible today. We will look for contemporary interpretations from different geographies to better understand the role and power of architect-developers and to define new avenues for evolution. Participants will share their findings through an online publication, produced as a series of advice columns, interpreted broadly and via different media.

This year, for the first time, there are two ways to participate.

• To join the three-week online residency, please send an op-ed about architect-developers (maximum 250 words), a music track we should listen to while reading your text, and a CV to The deadline is 28 November 2021. The expected time commitment of the residency is about three hours per day (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) from 10 to 29 January 2022. The working language of the residency will be English, and the residency is free.

• You can also send us questions about becoming a developer-architect to for a chance to get a reply in the publication. Anonymous questions are welcome, please use a pseudonym.

Since 2018, the CCA’s annual “How to” residency has produced interventions in para-architectural activities like publishing (How to: not make an architecture magazine), curation (How to: disturb the public), and awards (How to: reward and punish). The residency was conceived as a platform for rapid tool-making in response to specific opportunities and needs, and in 2022 it begins a new three-year cycle focused on accelerating changes in architecture practice.

How to: not become a “developer” is curated by Lev Bratishenko, CCA Curator, Public, and Joseph Zeal-Henry, who co-founded Sound Advice with Pooja Agrawal to explore spatial inequalities through social commentary and music.


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