L-A-B-O-R — Architecture Beyond Capitalism school (ABC) 2021

From the domestic sphere to the office to the boardroom to the construction site…
  • What labors (re)produce architects and architecture?
  • Who designs your architecture?
  • Who builds your architecture?
  • Who protects and advocates for your value and healthy working conditions?


Lygia Sabbag Fares, Faculty, Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Ekta Mittal and Ramnath Bhat, co-founders of Maraa

Aska Welford and Kirti Durelle, United Voices Section of Workers Labor Union (UVW-SAW)

Federico Garcia Lammers and Jessica Garcia Fritz, Founders LAB-OR and Faculty, South Dakota State University

Speaker Bios

Coordinated by:

Kadambari BaxiAaron Cayer

Reading/Hearing/Viewing for this Theme:


1. Tithi, Bhattacharya, “How Not to Skip Class: Social Reproduction of Labor and the Global Working Class” in Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression (London: Pluto Press, 2017), pp. 68-93. [Relevant to presentation by Lygia Sabbag Fares]

2. (Definitions for reference): Fine, Ben, and Alfredo Saad-Filho, “Labour and Labour Power”; “ Surplus Value and Exploitation”;  “Absolute and Relative Surplus Value” in Marx’s Capital (2016). [Relevant to presentation by Lygia Sabbag Fares]

3. Behind the Tin Sheets, Presence (2012): password: Ghosts; and Gumnaam Din (2019): password: missingperson. [Relevant to presentation by Ekta Mittal and Ramnath Bhat]

4. Jane McAlevey,“Introduction,” No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (2016). [Relevant to presentation by Aska Welford and Kirti Durelle]

5. Kevin Bernard Moultrie Daye, “The Missing Bodies in Architecture’s Talk of Embodied Energy.” [Relevant to presentation by Federico Gacia Lammers and Jessica Garcia Fritz]


1. Marx, Karl. 2010. Wage-Labor and Capital. Lavergne, TN: Dodo.

2. Fernando Luiz Lara, “American Mirror: The Occupation of the ‘New World’ and the Rise of Architecture as We Know It

3. Red Nation and Red Media Podcast Episode: “The Red Deal: Decolonization or Extinction” (April 26, 2021)

4. Working for What?, Architectural Workers (2018)

5. ‘Why Organise’ and ‘Areas for Union Action’ in the pamphlet Working for WhatNew Architecture Movement (1977)



While the CAPITALISM assignment focused on the “what” (an object or artifact and its relationship to power), this assignment for LABOR focuses on the “who”: the laboring body and the people that contribute to the production, stewardship, maintenance, and care of the built environment and landscape. Following the thread of questions posed for this theme, this assignment prompts us to cast a wide net to encapsulate the myriad of labor conditions that are required to produce and maintain the built environment. What forms of labor—emotional, immaterial, physical, managerial, pedagogical, reproductive—are required and implicated in the production of architecture? What are the qualities of this labor, in terms of time, space, and value? What are the capitalist conditions (e.g., exploitation, precarity, safety, mobility, visibility, and solidarity) that characterize the laborer and their work? Finally, what methods and representational techniques can we use to reveal the conditions and intersections of these labors and laborers? This assignment is divided into three brief steps.

    Select a laborer on your own (recommended: complete by Tuesday). During the week after the LABOR speaker session, each participant should individually select a case study “laborer” to research and describe in this collective Google form. This laborer can be you or someone you know (anonymized and/or described by your relationship), someone you’ve heard about, someone you’d like to learn more about, or a particular type of worker within your power map from assignment 1. We encourage you to consider laborers who may be adjacent to, or indirectly related, to their final physical outputs. The Google form allows for space to input basic information about your selected “who,” as well as spaces to upload images, documents, and narrative accounts. Choose how best to describe the laborer chosen, acknowledging that the gaps or unknowns are just as important in understanding these conditions of labor. In order to find information about your laborer, you may consider: reflecting on your own roles (using yourself as your case); conducting an oral history; interviewing someone; online research; historical research; or any other method.

    Consider the following capitalist conditions that may shape your research and reporting of your laborer’s characterization:
    Groups 1-5 should focus on the degree of exploitation
    Groups 6-10 should focus on the degree of precarity
    Groups 11-15 should focus on the degree of safety
    Groups 16-20 should focus on the degree of mobility
    Groups 21-25 should focus on the degree of visibility
    Groups 26-30 should focus on the degree of solidarity
    Meet within your small groups to make and represent connections (due by Saturday, July 10, 10am ET). Prior to the salon, meet with your identified group to (a) identify connections across and conclusions based on your group’s characterization of their laborers, and (b) represent these connections. Are there geographical commonalities, or overlaps in the way each laborer relates to your group’s capitalist condition? Are there differences in the way in which capitalism shapes the laborer, their security, and their working conditions? After discussing, identify as a group how you might collectively represent the commonalities or differences of your laborers’ characterizations. Your group’s representation should reveal the latent or explicit relationships between case studies that will then be shared/compared with other groups. Might a map reveal your conclusions? A journey map? A diagram? A photo essay? A paragraph? A collage? See examples in the Theme 2 Miro board, but please note that this is an open exercise to whatever method suits your discussion.