Should There Be A “Fair Trade” Label For Buildings?

Why does the construction world feel so divided, like a tale of two helmets—white versus yellow? The Fair Building project steps into the scene, shedding light on the ethical challenges faced by one of architecture’s unsung heroes: the construction worker.

In an industry where labor conditions, a lack of respect, and site accidents cast dark shadows on the global stage, these concerns often fade into the background amid the relentless march of deadlines, budget constraints, and the clamor for new spaces. The project poses a thought-provoking query: Why shouldn’t buildings bear the mark of fair trade?”


Our journey began in 2015, continued through 2016, and was enriched with new insights in 2020. We embarked on an adventure that took us to 34 construction sites scattered across eight vibrant Polish cities. Along this path, we engaged with 124 remarkable construction workers, each a specialist in their craft.

From these encounters, we forged five compelling documentary videos. Each of these narratives delves deep into the lives of construction workers, illuminating key facets of their industry. These stories reveal the struggles and triumphs, as labor conditions, respect, and site safety cast shadows on a global stage.

15th Venice Architecture Biennale

We were genuinely thrilled when our project was chosen to represent Poland at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. Alej firmly believes that construction sites serve as the frontline in architecture; they represent the tangible embodiment of any live project and, despite technological advancements, are primarily driven by manual labor.

Our project received significant recognition and acclaim. It was featured by The New York Times and Dezeen as one of the most captivating exhibitions at the Biennale. But, most importantly to us, it provided a platform where the voices of construction workers resonated during such a prestigious event.

We partitioned the Polish pavilion in the Giardini into two distinctive sections. The primary area featured an engaging modular scaffolding installation, establishing a direct and tangible connection to the world of construction. Simultaneously, we screened documentary videos, each highlighting essential aspects of the industry—shedding light on working conditions and the unique characteristics of construction projects.

The other segment of our exhibition resembled an investor’s showroom apartment, offering a formal exploration of the industry through infographics and an animated promotional video. Here, visitors delved into the industry’s quantitative dimensions, gaining insight into its inner workings.

Fair Building project journey

In 2017, it was displayed in Kielce and Gdynia, Poland. During this time, we not only presented the project but also made progress on the foundation scheme eligible for the FB mark. Concurrently, we continued to gather narratives from workers, adding depth to our storytelling.

Moving to 2020 and 2021, the project was featured in the Living the City exhibition, hosted within the main hall of the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport, extending the project’s reach and influence.