Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, magistrate and former judge at the European Court of Human Rights, discusses the relationship between fundamental rights and design in the contemporary political context.
“René Cassin, Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the main authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has pointed the “immense part of science in the conception, content, development and practice of human rights”. Practical inventions. The development of scientific medicine, the liberation of rational research, and research freedom have powerfully contributed to soften the burdens on man and society. This is a recognition that should be remembered by referring to engineers, architects, and urban planners, who research, invent, and carry practical innovations that are the core of discoveries.
However, J. Robert Oppenheimer – a scientist who had to reflect on the consequences of what he had helped to accomplish – noted that “when you see something that is technically valid, go ahead and do it and discuss what to do with it after you have had your technical success. This is what happened with the atomic bomb”.
The awareness of powerful and positive effects of scientific research and the implementation of its innovative results risk leaving the field open to disaster. This happens when the only technical success is pursued without thinking about (every) potential consequence.
Thinking about consequences implies a cultural attitude open to human and social values. This is usually considered a field of action and study of disciplines other than engineering and architecture. Yet, this is a mistake.
Human rights and fundamental freedom are pervasive. They – either – appear demanding on every occasion of human activity. Knowing the nature, the content, and the way of working is essential. This generates respect without waiting for them to be discussed when the political, social or judicial controversy has already arisen.
The universality of methods and results of scientific research corresponds to the universality to which fundamental human rights tend. On both sides, national borders have no effect. This is a reason for understanding between the scientist and the jurist of human rights.”
The Urban Legacy Seminar Series were recorded at Politecnico di Torino during 2018.