Mstyslav Chernov Taksim Square protests in Instanbul.

I remember precisely when the significance of globalization hit home. It was in Istanbul, six years ago this month—on my 40th birthday, as it happens. As a present, my partner had scored a reservation at a hot restaurant. Seated next to us was a party of 30- and 40-something locals who, it turns out, were celebrating a birthday as well. When candle-topped desserts arrived almost simultaneously at both tables, the coincidence broke the ice, and we started chatting.

We were all speaking American English, wearing sneakers designed in Bavaria or Oregon, taking pictures on late-model iPhones, and in general conforming to the behavioral expectations for international exchange established at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 and upheld by institutions such as the World Bank, CNN, and Art Basel.

Had architecture come up in the conversation, I’m sure we would have uncovered a mutual admiration for the work of Zaha Hadid or Bjarke Ingels. And had any of our new acquaintances worked in the field, chances are we could have played a fruitful game of six degrees: “Oh my God! You went to the ETH? When were you there? Did you know … ?”

Walking back to our boutique hotel in a gentrifying historic neighborhood, past the modest storefront workshops of carpenters and appliance repairmen, it occurred to me that we and those well-heeled Turks might have more in common with each other than with working-class people of our own respective countries. To say so even 20 years ago would have stretched belief. Yet that dinner encounter exemplified a contemporary reality: the cosmopolitan tribalism of 21st-century technocrats, a social group akin to the transnational aristocracies of pre–World War I Europe, but even more far-flung and rarefied.

Architecture itself, as a business, product, and ideology, seems to have evolved in tandem. The profession now operates at such a planetary scale that one can follow trends like the folded floor plate or bar code window pattern from, say, inception at a graduate studio in Boston, across a corporate desktop in Los Angeles or San Francisco, to implementation at a construction site in China. (One can just as easily track the extraction, production, and installation of structural steel in the opposite geographic direction.)

Two summers later, protests broke out near the hotel where we had stayed, in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, in opposition to a government plan to raze an adjacent park and build a shopping mall on the site. Within days, millions had risen up around the country, protesting not just a single high-profile instance of privatization, but the injustice it epitomized. It was one in a sequence of tumultuous, headline-grabbing events—from the Arab Spring of 2010 to Brexit and the 2016 U.S. presidential election—occurring in reaction to globalization.

Both at home and abroad, the architecture profession is embedded in the systems of globalized power. Functionally, the condition is probably unavoidable, but it doesn’t necessarily have to result in political upheavals. The trick, whether planning a new city, designing a corporate headquarters, iterating a retail prototype, or specifying house wrap, is to remember that the decisions architects make every day can have broad consequences. Simply act accordingly.