Stakeholder theory as a paradigm for cultural production of the built environment
Cultural production finds constant reinforcement through the built environment, yet defining what “culture” is has become an increasingly contentious in recent years. In the United States, the rise of segregated physical spaces and the accompanying social stratification in the form of gated communities and pseudo-public spaces that attract homogenous communities has been well documented. Popularly, such segregation is linked to “living in a bubble”, in which different cultural norms within a society become isolated. Despite problems associated with such isolation, such as economic stratification and social intolerance, few architects and planners have addressed how the accompanying cultural production paradigms are related to the production of the built environment, and the architect’s role in this process. This paper uses a variation of stakeholder theory to explore the consequences of our designs. Stakeholder theory, first proposed by R. Edward Freedman in the 1980s, states that in order to succeed, companies should create value for all stakeholders - customers, employees, suppliers, financiers, and the community - and not just shareholders. Extended to the process by which the built environment is created, this means that the effects of our building patterns and practices must be considered through the lens of all possible stakeholders in order to produce successful projects. The first step is to gain a fuller understanding of a project’s short and long-term social and cultural ramifications. Using a method adopted from principled negotiation in which stakeholders and their interests are identified in order to develop scenarios by which a majority of interests can be accommodated, this paper will analyze several recent building projects in the United States to assess their impact on cultural production.