What is an Architect?

What is an Architect? What is the role of the professional organization representing architects?

About a month ago, someone shared a post about Mr. Trump’s wall on the COTE AIA KnowledgeNet Forum and it stated that architects should stay in their comfort zone of architecture. Architects should step outside of the AIA should they wish to protest.

Many responses disagreed, and pointed to clear reasons why the wall is immoral and foolish. Ed Mazria of architecture2030 stated the many detriments to the environment, including elimination of access to the Rio Grande, truncation of related floodplains, and elimination of important migratory paths. Other replies pointed out our professional obligations of providing for the health safety and welfare of the communities in which we practice. This is, in fact, why architecture is a profession. Still others reminded the readers that “architects are fully formed beings, with moral conscience”.

Here is my initial response:

I must say that I normally would express this post as “I feel that…” or “from my perspective…” or “don’t you think that…” but I cannot water down this statement.

You are wrong. 

Architects who “do architecture” are artists and expressionists who care nothing for the people who use the building or project. They set aside the amazing and informative context of the space, and are foolishly unaware of the complexities of the installation in time. These “architects” are at most two-dimensional beings creating with ego in the lead in a three-dimensional realm. Enjoy your magazine covers.

We must work with the systems we exist within if we are to exist, and those systems include the complex networks of resources, energy, community and, unfortunately, politics as a factor of that community. The founder of Patagonia has said that with no environment there are no customers, no stakeholders, no business. At the very least you must seek to understand that simple and entirely understandable concept.

A qualifying statement came up soon thereafter. Here is a short quote from that post, and I appreciate the re-defining of the discussion. “The original post does not suggest Architects should not be passionate about this issue. He asks, rather, and, I think, reasonably and rationally, why the AIA is wading into this as an organization that is ostensibly set up to advocate for the Architectural profession.”

I again responded, very strongly. I have included my post here with typos corrected, as I see now that my passionate commentary over-rode my typically zealous grammar/spelling checks.

Defending the profession is the role of the AIA. In order to do that, we first need to define what an “architect” is.

My position is that architects are trained critical thinkers who not only serve (yes, serve) as facilitators in communication between clients and the building industry, but more properly as representatives for all parties to achieve excellent buildings and spacial experiences. “All parties” includes the environment, as we all share resources, the building users, the affected communities, as well as whomever is footing the bill for the design and construction.

We have the right and more so the responsibility to be advocates for all of these parties, lest we become a profession limited to creation of prettiness without soul and without functional worth.

The AIA must defend and support architects – the full meaning of this calling, not just the convenient professional designation that limits itself to limited, tunnel-vision approaches, and total lack of innovative interdependence. In defending the comprehensive vocation of architect (be all you can be) the AIA must use its voice to remind people that architects are professionals with expertise, insights and values that will be applied to the work. The wall is an example of an immoral plan with lack of value, in fact with exceptional detriments.

Thank you, AIA, for communicating and amplifying the value of the profession of Architect.

I have since been corrected and told that “Architect” is already defined by the AIA and by each state, and “critical thinking” is not one of our requisite activities.

My response: It is time to re-define.

So here is a call out – please share this post, voice your ideas on my blog or via other resources open to you. If you are an architect, let the AIA know that the time has come to redefine the term “Architect”, at the very least internally in the profession. We must express and uphold our complete value so that we can engage with and guide all involved parties, lend our critical thinking skills, insights, and experiences and develop beneficial projects that serve all creation. In this Anthropocene Era, we have no alternative but to embrace the responsibility of stewardship. We must avoid producing projects that serve only mankind, business, or profit in total disregard of all other affected entities.

Thank you,


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